Job Architecture Design in Excel Won’t Work

Five reasons for using a specialized software

The benefits of having a job architecture are abundantly clear: Increasing the effectiveness of basically all HR-activities over the employee-life cycle is invaluable. However, the concept can remain vague for many because the multi-layered structure of a job architecture is not easy to visualize.

So, it’s no surprise that Excel is still widely used for this purpose. The idea is that a spreadsheet will be a good representation of the content you need to put in and that anyone with Excel skills can build it. This is correct for a small organization with 500 employees. But if you get to 5.000 or even 20.000, then it will be a daunting task.

You will have to analyze hundreds of functions to reduce them to a manageable structure, assign job descriptions, grades, skills, and competencies. In Excel this will be an error-prone process which no HR-professional with serious career aspirations would sign up for voluntarily.

All larger organizations use specially designed software to define and roll out job architectures. Here are their five most important reasons for choosing a cloud-based job architecture software over spreadsheets.



Starting your job architecture design from scratch means you need to answer some essential questions before you get started.

  • How to compile or create the content,
  • How to structure it,
  • How the process of reviewing, approving, and signing off the content will be organized,
  • How do you roll out the jobs and structure for the employees?

It will not be necessary to acquire all this know-how with specialized software because best practices are already built into the processes. You can follow the workflow that the software solution offers and use the standard content it provides, only adapting what you deem necessary. You can also adopt the provided structure of a job catalog (job families, sub-job families…) to classify the different functions in your organization as you wish.

In short, leveraging the expertise built into a software will save precious time and resources, getting to realize the benefits of a job architecture much earlier. This is especially important if the reason for building a job architecture is the implementation of a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) with a fixed starting date.



Working on large amounts of sensitive data in a spreadsheet puts you at risk of compiling inaccurate data without even realizing it. First, it is unlikely not to make any mistake within the constant copy & paste and switching between spreadsheets. We all have learned that the hard way. Second, a spreadsheet does not offer the option to maintain a multidimensional overview of your structure.

Here are two practical examples:

  • Some jobs will have to be assigned in bulk to many employees at once. For example, a working student job will often need to be assigned to many people. Without a tool to support this assignment, you most likely find yourself in a repetitive and time-consuming task of assigning each employee individually, increasing the risk of committing errors on the way.
  • Other jobs are characterized by a high value creation for the company, and they need to be approached more carefully. All details of the job and the respective employee need to be visible for making the correct assignments. This proves difficult when having to look up the data in various places. In Excel you will have to jump from sheet to sheet, copying, pasting… again a manual effort with a high risk of errors.

Thinking a bit further, data accuracy will also affect your entire HRIS or, rather, the benefit you can get out of it. If its data does not correctly reflect your organizational design and has accurate job titling/classification, then tasks such as succession planning, compensation analysis (e.g., similar jobs with different titles and different compensation), or workforce planning will not lead to the desired results.



Job architecture design will take various months and your business environment will keep on changing during the process. Due to the constant change in larger workforces, it is not uncommon that by the time a company is finished with its job architecture, it is already outdated. This not only happens due to one-off events such as mergers or acquisitions. Changes happen each day. i.e., new or leaving employees, changing job requirements or technological challenges.

Outdated information is a bad foundation for any important decision, be it growth initiatives, transformational projects, or any HR practice. A job architecture software not only speeds up your process, but it also enables you to integrate continuous change while you are working on it. You will be able to produce high-quality data as a base for informed decisions. You won’t run the risk of having to start over again because the data you used in the beginning will be outdated when you finish.



The risk of making small mistakes when building a job architecture is high when doing it manually in a spreadsheet. The issue here is that any job architecture will lead to increased transparency, which means mistakes in the design will be easily visible, and some of them can negatively influence employee experience.

The most common problem which can arise is a mismatch of employee compensation, usually through missing consolidation of the structure. If people have the same job but are being paid differently, then you can do one of two things (apart from establishing equal pay). Either you provide employees with transparency about the evaluation process and the compensation scheme – or you don’t. Employees will either see or feel that they are not being compensated fairly. This will obviously influence employee engagement and retention rates.

But a negative experience can also take hold in HR itself, with the people responsible for the design of the job architecture. Without technology enablement, they are left using cumbersome tools and doing repetitive tasks which put them at high risk of committing errors. If you make it easy for them to build the job architecture, they will have more incentive to maintain it and thus provide high quality data.

Finally, without a platform to analyze your job architecture data, you will miss out on essential insights. Such analytical tools are usually part of specialized software solutions. Data analytics span the process (i.e., tracking the progress of design, translations, and approvals) and the data being stored. The point is the expectation of employees. They will assume that you have full oversight, and they would not understand if you wouldn’t be able to name the number of Directors per country or detect situations of unequal pay.



Finally, the compliance issue. There are many personal and sensitive issues at play within a job architecture and approvals are legally required (i.e., grade assignment, changes in org. structure, requirements for a job). Correct processes and communication must be met.

Unless you use a job architecture design software which allows you to design the workflow according to your company’s rules, there is a serious risk of overstepping legal demands. I.e., ensuring that only the right people can view and edit the job architecture or that any critical change is subject to review and approval.

When not working with software that centralizes all data, various employees will work on various documents simultaneously. The result expected: Many versions of the same document without knowing which document or cell offers the latest and accurate information. While this is not a compliance issue, the problem is that these documents will usually be exchanged via email. The issue for compliance is that there is no control about who has access to which data.

Ideally, you should have a centralized workspace where all the data is being stored, enabling collaboration while ensuring security and compliance. Also, tracking of activities performed is useful for internal audits. This is difficult – if not impossible – to achieve in Excel, not to speak about your employee´s peace of mind when they constantly worry about leaking any sensitive data.


Summing it up, smaller companies with up to 1.000 or 1.500 employees will be comfortable with a spreadsheet to build and maintain their organizational structure and job-related data. From this size on the complexity of a job architecture project rises exponentially, and the above-mentioned problems will cross your path. Suitable software should cover them all.