Home Asset Management Are spreadsheets sabotaging your asset management?

Are spreadsheets sabotaging your asset management?


If you’re still using spreadsheets for asset management, have you stopped to ask yourself why? Is it because they’re easy to use and all the data is there – even if it’s not accurate?

When it comes to the logistics of complex asset management, the reality is that spreadsheets are no longer up to par and there is an increased need for efficiency and accuracy.

Asset management tools and processes are adapting to the modern, digital era, but a surprising number of local government agencies are still using spreadsheets instead of harnessing the kind of technology that’s needed for complex asset structures.

There are risks, even with spreadsheet simplicity

Spreadsheets continue to be popular, even when they can’t cope with increasing demand and complexity. This is true of most legacy systems, and present a number of risks, including>

Data integrity
Without a rules layer sitting on top of it, there’s nothing stopping people from adding ‘rubbish’ data to the asset register – for example data that may have been entered in the wrong format, or incorrectly typed or copied and pasted.

It takes only a minimal amount of this kind of data being entered before the integrity of all the data has been compromised. This leads to a lack of confidence in the data and the outputs, which directly affects decision-making processes.

Knowledge siloes
When people use spreadsheets, they tend to develop their own links, formulae, charts and even macros, creating a single person dependency. When they get sick, go on holiday, or leave the organisation, their knowledge of that automation goes with them. If that knowledge isn’t passed on, it can cause severe problems; specifically, a reduction in the quality of data, especially when spreadsheet macros require editing. The asset management process should never be reliant on a spreadsheet that’s dependent on an individual with multiple manual touch points.

While security layers can be built into spreadsheets, they require a fairly high level of knowledge and sophistication. And if certain areas of the spreadsheet are password protected, organisations run the risk of not being able to access it if the person with the password is absent. There is also the security exposure of individuals emailing spreadsheets around an organisation. This can lead to the inadvertent release of sensitive data to outside recipients. In a nutshell: spreadsheets are easy to corrupt, and difficult to protect.

Subject to error
A recent study found that among manager-level and above, more than a third of respondents believed that spreadsheet risk was not something to worry about. Consequently, C-level management are making decisions based on spreadsheet data assumed to be accurate, but actually isn’t.

Another study found that:

  • 90% of spreadsheets with 150 rows or more contain errors

  • 94% of shared spreadsheets contain errors

What that means is that the resulting data is inaccurate, which causes a chain reaction, giving all stakeholders the wrong asset information – information they’ll be using to make critical decisions around asset management.

Is it difficult to make the move to a digital asset management system?

Often the decision to move to an asset management solution / information system occurs when an organisation realises the value of robust asset data and the risk of data corruption. When this happens, one of the first steps will be to ‘cleanse’ that data. In addition to the number of benefits that come with using an asset management solution, there’s the added advantage of having all your data ‘cleaned’. Although this process can take time – depending on the complexity of the data and how much there is – it’s not a difficult one but it does require focused and dedicated resources.

If an organisation does have well-structured and uncompromised data, then the move is a simple one. An automated process is run over that data, which is then aligned with the systems configuration, and loaded into the system – and the job is done.

When an organisation is considering implementing an asset management system, there are two considerations they need to keep in mind:

  1. Business requirements – one of the first things the solution supplier will want to identify are the organisation’s business needs.

  2. Information – compliance, regulatory, budgetary, legal, forecasting, projects – this is all required to support an organisation’s business processes.

Moving to an asset management solution is a structured process, and an iterative one. It’s best done in stages – not all at once – so that any problems can be identified and resolved at the outset rather than further down the track.

Buildings.PLUS – the ideal spreadsheet alternative

IPWEA offer a web-based asset management solution that helps local governments to manage their data and improve decision-making. Buildings.PLUS has been specifically designed for teams that are responsible for asset management, facility management and property management in any type of organisation that has a significant portfolio of buildings.

Key features include:

  • Linkages to NAMS.Plus – the component level data in Buildings.Plus can be transferred directly to NAMS.Plus – meaning that the Buildings.Plus tool complements NAMS.Plus and makes it easier for the facility related asset managers to assess, analyse and plan in a way that’s aligned with IPWEA’s guidelines.
  • An automated lifecycle and predictive model: The software utilises collected data and the BCGs to calculate the remaining lives of components, providing a 20 year forecast

  • Current BCGs: At the heart of Buildings.PLUS are the Building Component Guidelines listed in Practice note 3: Buildings. It provides guidance for the surveyor with component names, useful lives, criticalities and gross replacement costs

  • Mobile app: an in-the-field feature that allows onsite data collection and conditions assessments

  • Reporting: A valuation report, which calculates the remaining life and depreciated replacement cost of assets, as well as a series of onscreen and PDF reports, including a site level summary report, component report and expenditure report. It also has the functionality to interrogate and report component level data

Because Buildings.PLUS is a web-hosted application, it means that organisations can reduce or even eliminate IT expenditure and maintenance. It’s also an industrial strength solution and scalable; it’s a ‘lite’ version of the full SPM Assets software, providing many of the key features needed for managing building assets.

Now is the time to remove the risks and challenges spreadsheets present. Local government organisations need to focus on how to harness technology to streamline their asset management processes so they can make the best and most effective decisions around them. Maximising asset use and minimising waste is going to become increasingly important as we navigate the Covid-19 era, and investing in an asset management solution that ensures you have the highest-quality data available is the way to achieve that.

Here’s more information about Buildings.PLUS and how you can arrange a trial of the solution.

Previous articleIt’s time for asset management to be considered a profession in its own right: IPWEA CEO David Jenkins
Next articleWhat would you do? Two asset managers discuss natural disaster responses and resilience