Job tracking in Excel: How to do it better

Ann Dewar
May 7, 2024

Excel is really handy for all sorts of things. You might have used it for keeping track of stock or even sorting out budgets. It's fairly easy to get the hang of, which is part of its charm. But here's the thing: when a tool tries to do everything, it might not be the best at anything. 

You might get by with spreadsheets like Excel for a bit, but when your business gets bigger or jobs get more complex, Excel might start to let you down. It can end up taking more time than it's worth and not give back what you put in.

In this blog, we're going to look at job tracking in Excel; why Excel (and other spreadsheets) might not be the best for tracking jobs—and what you can do about it. 

Can you use Excel for job tracking?

So, is Excel good for job tracking? The short answer: Not really. Excel is good when it comes to dealing with lots of numbers—that's where it really shines. But when it comes to tracking jobs, it's a different story. 

Let's break it down a bit. 

Job tracking means you're looking to do stuff like:

  • Keeping an eye on what everyone's doing and when they're available.
  • Figuring out who should do which job to meet deadlines.
  • Watching how much work each person or your whole team can handle.
  • Checking how well teams are performing, like who's doing what and how much they're contributing.
  • Staying on top of what skills your team has.

Now, you can definitely try to manage all these in Excel. But some of the formulas you might need can be really tricky. Even small mistakes can mess things up big time. And manually updating spreadsheets can take ages. 

But let's be honest—things change fast. What if someone calls in sick or there's an emergency call out? You need plans to be spot on (ideally in real-time) and easy to readjust, but with Excel, keeping up can be tough.

Take, for example, working out how much each person is contributing to the job. The maths isn't too hard (there are templates out there), but imagine trying to do this for a whole team, then comparing months, etc, to see who's performing well. That's where it gets complicated. 

One small slip-up and you could end up with a mess. 

In short, yes, you can use Excel for job tracking. But the real question is: should you?


The pros of using Excel for job tracking

Let's be fair and look at why Excel is a popular choice for job tracking. It's not all bad news. First off, it’s likely someone in your team has used it before, which means no need to learn something new. That's a big plus, especially when you've got new people joining your team. They can jump right in and get trained without much fuss.

Also, Excel is part of the Microsoft Office package. If you're already paying for Office, then you're not spending extra to use Excel. 

Excel is also pretty flexible. Imagine you're starting a new company. You've got a ton of things to sort out, and setting up job tracking is just one of them. What do you do? You open Excel and whip up a simple plan or tracker. It's quick and easy. If your team's small and your jobs are straightforward, Excel can work just fine at the start.

But, here’s the catch. This "quick fix" can turn into a long-term headache if you rely on it for too long. It might seem to work for now, but it might not be enough as your business grows and things get more complex.

The cons of using Excel for job tracking

Now, let's chat about the not-so-good bits of using Excel for job tracking. These points are important to think about, especially as your business grows.

First up, Excel doesn't handle big, complicated files very well. If your spreadsheets start to grow with loads of data and complex formulas, Excel can slow down. And that's not helpful when you're trying to get work done fast.

Another big issue is how easy it is to make mistakes in Excel. One wrong number or formula and everything can go wonky. This is even trickier when lots of people are using the same file—it’s really easy to accidentally overwrite something important or end up with different versions of the same spreadsheets. 

Then there's the time factor. Keeping your Excel files up to date can eat into your day. Think about it—every hour you spend updating spreadsheets is an hour you're not doing other important stuff. And often, it's simple things like entering data that can take up so much time.

Finally, Excel can keep you in the dark. If you're working on spreadsheets that aren't connected to your invoicing and accounting software, you're kind of working in a bubble.

The bottom line: Using spreadsheets for job tracking is a false economy. Yes, they might be free to use. But at what cost? Wasted hours as you wade through tables of data—and lost opportunities through slow or ill-informed decision-making. So, while Excel might seem easy at first, it can actually make things harder in the long run. 

Better options than Excel for job tracking

Understanding why Excel might not be the best fit for job tracking leads us to the next big question: what should you use instead?

Firstly, it's worth acknowledging why some people stick with Excel. Change can be hard. Switching to a new system feels like a big step, especially when you're used to doing things a certain way. It's natural to feel a bit unsure about trying something new.

But here's the thing: there are tools out there designed just for job tracking. These tools are built to handle the challenges you face every day. They're like a custom-made solution, whereas Excel is more of a one-size-fits-all.

Using dedicated job tracking software can save you heaps of time. These tools are made to show you exactly what you need to know, when you need to know it. They stay up-to-date with changes (in the cloud in real-time), so you're always working with the latest info.

Let's take an example. 

With a tool like BigChange, one of the biggest benefits is access to a real-time data dashboard for job management that provides 24/7 job progress and resource availability data. And immediate access to fleet information at the same time.

A screen of the BigChange system showing tracking map with vehicles on.

Instead of waiting for people to update spreadsheets, you can have instant comms between the office and engineers for accurate job tracking and speedy remedial action.

Scheduling Assistant built into JobWatch. Part of the BigChange job management system

Engineers can access everything on a mobile app for instant delivery of job sheets, warranties and certificates.

device view of jobs

Plus, job tracking software optimises routes to drive down your costs.

And when it comes to customer satisfaction, automatic notifications provide your team and your customers with end-to-end job tracking information and allow customers to track a driver’s journey and ETA.

eta alert showing back office desktop alert and cutomer receiving alert txt SMS

Our Customer Portal takes things a step further by letting customers view their job histories, statuses and documents.

To sum up, switching from Excel to a tool like this means less stress over spreadsheets and more time to focus on the real work. Basically, it's all about making your work life easier and your business run smoother.

Moving from Excel to job tracking software

If you’re using spreadsheets or manual processes for job tracking and you’re reading this blog, you probably know it’s time to make the switch to specialised software. 

Here’s a few of the signs you might start to see:

Signs it’s time to switch

  • Growing pains: As your business scales and you find manual processes struggling to keep up, it's a clear sign. Maybe you are struggling to optimise job schedules, or you're spending too much time fixing errors.
  • Time issues: If updating job information is taking up more and more of your day, that’s a red flag. A good tool should save you time, not eat it up.
  • Mistake mayhem: If errors are creeping in more often, causing delays or confusion, it's time to consider a change.

Now, finding the right tool might take a bit of research. You'll want to think about what features are a must-have for your business and maybe some extras that would be nice to have. (We have a handy checklist you can use here️.)

If you need a bit more concrete proof about how job tracking software can save you time and money, you can always use our savings calculator to help you figure this out. 

Real stories of making the change

And if you want to know the real-life benefits businesses like yours have seen from moving from manual to automated job tracking, here are a few standout examples:

  • EB Gas boosted productivity by 20%, are 30% more efficient, and 100% paper free.
  • FSE UK saw 6x annual growth, 2 Nationwide contracts, and are now growing into a multi-million-pound operation.
  • Serious Waste grew the business by 30%, saved 60% time to invoice, and are on track for 50% predicted new growth.

Say goodbye to paperwork

We're all looking for ways to work smarter, not harder. Using Excel for job tracking is an example of making things harder for yourself by not picking the right tool for the job.

If you were fixing something on a job and needed to place a screw, you could do a rough job of driving it in with a hammer (...and cause some damage in the process). But why would you? You'd use a screwdriver instead because it's designed for the task at hand.

In the same way, the right job tracking tool is going to save you heaps of time and trouble, and it will be able to scale and meet the demands as your organisation grows.

Ultimately, the success of your business depends on whether you have the right engineers doing the right work, at the right time. And so, it is pretty crucial that you get job tracking and management spot on—otherwise you're setting yourself up for failure.

You can read more about ultimate guide to job tracking. Or if you’re ready to make the switch, you can book a demo.

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