The Limitations of Excel for Government Contract Pricing

    Convenience, versatility, and perceived effectiveness make many people believe that spreadsheets can be used for anything. While Excel can be useful for many projects, the truth is, spreadsheets are not the most effective tools to create, manage, and analyze cost proposals. The inability to quickly import inputs, perform analysis, make changes, and create reports are among the biggest challenges organizations face in using spreadsheet applications as their primary proposal pricing tool.

    Following are just some of the trade-offs in productivity, efficiency, and profitability that companies agree to when they opt for spreadsheets over a dedicated proposal pricing application.

    Details Get Lost

    Using a spreadsheet becomes problematic the minute more than one person gets involved with entering, processing, and updating data. Excel makes coordination difficult, mainly because it requires each team member to make sure they’re working from the most recent file version, and then update and synchronize their individual versions with each other.

    This not only opens the team to the risk; it also wastes a lot of time. Working with multiple versions of a spreadsheet makes it difficult to know what changes to make, what to do next, and where everything stands. Accidental deletion, overwriting, or reformatting can ruin hours of hard work.

    excel-error-frustrationWorking without real-time visibility makes it almost impossible to catch and correct all problems before they do any significant damage. And once the damage is done, it’s difficult to identify what caused the problems, leaving the proposal vulnerable to the same mistakes in the future when its erroneous data and formulas are copied for re-use in another project.

    Time is Lost on Workarounds

    It’s human nature to invent workarounds, and this is exactly what happens when teams must compensate for Excel’s limitations.

    Companies using homegrown solutions often end up subject to a variety of workarounds. While workarounds may solve problems in the short term, they're not sustainable. There’s only so far a workaround will go before it reaches its limits and begins to crack under the stress of its own magnitude.

    As the number of proposals grow, a spreadsheet-based system becomes nearly impossible to maintain. Not only will you find it hard to keep consistency across various spreadsheets and workbooks, you’ll also struggle to keep up with all the different elements of a proposal that you must track. Multiply that across hundreds of proposals and staff, and you end up with a monstrous labyrinth of data that slows your department down.

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    Reporting Requires Time

    Excel spreadsheets do not feature built-in reporting and instead require proposal managers to manually build reports for their team. Gathering and formatting the data can take time.

    Due to the difficulty of pulling data from multiple locations in Excel, if a customer or auditor requires reporting in a specific format, this can add another layer of time and effort the team must spend on the proposal.

    Limited Customer Support

    Having 24/7 technical support for your pricing solutions is critical. It is extremely difficult to get a real-time, in person support from Microsoft if you need help with creating a workaround or when your spreadsheet crashes. This can lead to more time wasted while your team searches online looking for advice or watching ‘how-to’ videos. Plus, those aren’t guaranteed to solve the specific problems you may encounter with your unique spreadsheet. Each minute that goes by searching for answers are dollars out the window.

    Better Tools Are Out There for a Reason

    ProPricer solves every problem we’ve discussed in this article, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. ProPricer is a unified database system designed to support the development, submission, evaluation, negotiation, and audit of proposal pricing. ProPricer cuts down on manual data entry and gives you complete visibility into every element of your cost proposals, no matter how complex they may be.

    Different proposal views provide snapshots of vital information such as KPIs, progress, and budgets. For a deeper dive into the details, ProPricer produces robust and customizable reports, so management and business development have the real-time information they need to steer their bids in the right direction.

    Choosing the right pricing software is critical and can be a challenging process. Download our proposal pricing software checklist to learn more about our recommendations to consider in order to make the right decision.

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