We’ve all seen one of the design industries most common workflows roll out. You have expensive, comprehensive software that requires too many boxes to check, and you just need to share a quick list with your team, so you put together a spreadsheet, and attach it to an email. Now your team can get quick access to the information they need, in a tool that they all have a license for. In some cases you know you should probably be using your PLM, or project management software, but this method is a lot easier… in the short term.
Spreadsheets are a common way to share information. They’re easy to use, its simple to give access to others, and they solve a lot of problems for companies who are trying to manage data in a lightweight environment. So when technical design teams need to share information quickly, without the complexity of a tool like PLM, a spreadsheet is often the easiest short-term solution. Turning to spreadsheets might save your team a set of expensive licenses in the short term, but in the long run, it could end up costing your team a lot more. In fact, using ‘free’ spreadsheets as a method to document and manage important design information can be very expensive. Forbes’ Tim Worstall makes the claim that excel might actually be “the most dangerous software on the planet”.
Hidden in the simplicity of spreadsheets are serious limitations. Spreadsheets costs time for everyone involved. They typically require a) someone to manage all these active documents and b) a lot of extra time to find up-to-date information, files, and supporting information, with a lot of errors made along the way.
They also involve a much higher probability of human error compared to an automated software, and this only becomes more prevalent as an organization grows, as spreadsheets often can’t scale with an organization’s design needs. Information gets lost or deleted or changed and there is no real audit trail to demonstrate how the changes happened and/or who was involved. Not to mention the security risk of keeping fundamental information in a sheet that could be accidently shared with no record of who’s seen it, and no option to revoke access.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in working from spreadsheets is the limitations for handover. When a spreadsheet owner moves on to another project, or another organization, the intricacies of managing a locally stored spreadsheet often leaves with this owner.
When a quick list of information is needed, a spreadsheet can be a great solution. When key project information needs to be shared and managed among your design team, a spreadsheet can do a lot more harm than good. That is not to say that you should be using your comprehensive, often cumbersome tools for quick lists or action items. In fact, that too might waste more time you can afford.
Instead, evaluate a tool that can complement your existing tools, and provide the simplicity of a spreadsheet without the downsides. A lightweight design review solution can achieve the same agility of a spreadsheet with the right amount of automation and security to ensure your time and information are protected.
CoLab Software’s Gradient empowers engineering teams to collaborate on a design and iterate quickly, while still maintaining the automation and security they need. Gradient is a design management and issue tracking tool built into an industry leading 2D/3D viewer. The platform allows users to create markups, issues and action items directly on their native CAD files, with quick reference to all supporting project information, so you can cut the ineffective spreadsheets.
Your design team needs an agile, lightweight environment to collaborate effectively, and execute your design projects, but your PLM and project management tools aren’t cutting it and high maintenance, low security spreadsheets aren’t the answer either. Check out how lightweight design review tools like Gradient can reduce barriers in your design process, and keep your project moving.