Stop me if you’ve heard this shouted across your office – “Who has MonthlySalesNovember.xls open? I need to make changes!!”
Excel creeps into every organization early in its growth, and rightfully so. It solves many tracking problems in an easy way everyone can understand.
“We’ll track our upcoming jobs in this spreadsheet, then we’ll copy that job over to the invoicing spreadsheet, and don’t forget our staff scheduling spreadsheet to try and match back to our upcoming jobs spreadsheet. Now let’s add a spreadsheet to track our employees, our inventory, our orders, our customers, their orders, our equipment, and a few more that we’ve thought of, all before lunch time.”
After a while, you look around and realize half your time (and your staff’s time) is spent as a slave to Excel. Updating, viewing, administering, copying, and sharing spreadsheets has become all you do, and the frustration with Excel’s limitations is building.
There are 8 areas where Excel will eventually cripple your company. They happen at different stages during your growth. In our next article we’ll discuss some of the ways to tame and replace Excel.
- One person can make changes
The first problem most people encounter. John left for coffee/lunch/holidays and didn’t close the spreadsheet on his computer. Now the Excel file is locked and you can’t edit it.
- One person has to make changes
No, that isn’t an echo to #1 you’re hearing. Soon you have 20 staff out working, and they send everything back to the one person in the office who tracks it all in Excel. And he’s overloaded trying to keep up. Now you hire some help, maybe split the first spreadsheet into two so each person has an area that they enter data into. You wanted to hire people to make money, not spend 6 hours a day entering data into Excel spreadsheets. Why can’t your field staff just enter the information once, rather than recording it and sending it in to the office to be re-recorded in Excel?
- Hard to share
How many time have you left the office without the latest copy of the spreadsheet you need? Or the copy that you have is already out of date because your office crew just updated the weekly numbers. And then your colleagues all have a different version which requires an email with the latest latest copy before you can discuss the numbers.
- Manual reporting
Sorting and filtering to get the view you want is tedious manual work. Grouping and total rows, yep, more manual tweaking after the wizards get you part of the way there. Pivot tables? Hope you have a couple hours to spare and enjoy a challenge, or have a guru handy (yes, your nephew likely does count, if he’s nearby).
- Fragile and cranky
One of your staff created a beautiful spreadsheet, with everything summarized, charted, and displayed on multiple worksheets. Now that she’s on vacation, nobody is willing to make any changes because the inter-linked formulas and references make it impossible to know if you’ve just broken the calculation on the fourth tab.
Excel doesn’t scale to support either a large number of users (see #1 and #2), nor a large amount of data. It’s a great problem to have when your monthly sales won’t fit on one tab. Or your weekly sales. But Excel isn’t helping track things now, it’s getting in the way.
- No history
Who changed that row? I swear I updated our inventory to show we were almost out last month.
Didn’t we have over 300 customers listed? Why are we down to 275?
What do you mean our sales forecast was overly optimistic? When did those sales records change?
No file be considered secure when you have 10, 20, 50 copies or more, both current and past versions, in emails, on laptops, on mobile phones, tablets, at home, at work, and on the road. Everyone who can find a copy of the spreadsheet can see all the data on that spreadsheet. And no, hiding rows, columns, and tabs does not make it secure! Neither does your Excel password protection (where the password was sent out in the email along with the attached spreadsheet).
That sounds pretty drastic. Luckily, there are solutions. Better tools, ways to share data, methods to integrate with other tools, and custom database-driven online web and mobile apps are the natural progression. We’ll give you tips on where to look for solutions in our next article.
If this sounds like your office and you’re frustrated with Excel, contact us today to discuss your business web app and mobile app options. We offer a free initial consultation to hear what your areas of pain are. We’ll suggest smart solutions that can be implemented to make things in your business run more efficiently, so you have time to go out and work on your business, not your spreadsheets!