It might be time to move away from spreadsheets

December 17, 2021

When we first start out in business most of us use trusty spreadsheets to log our data in some shape or form. Hands up if you have ever used spreadsheets in the following ways…

  • To store client data
  • To contain employee data
  • To record order information
  • To understand business costs
  • To keep track of invoices
  • To manage projects

This may result in multiple spreadsheets used simultaneously in order to cross reference data…

Cross referencing spreadsheets can be a real headache

Spreadsheets are great, but often they are used inappropriately. Obviously, spreadsheets are used to log & analyse data and to create visual aids representing data, this is great for individual use. However, when a company grows, you should avoid using a collection of spreadsheets as your main business operating system. Excel is a complimentary business tool and should not be your main one.

Do not use spreadsheets to manage a project! Well, it is not best practice to anyway. If you want to waste several hours amending dates and Gantt chart cells every time there is a project change, go-ahead (speaking from experience). Not to have a go, we understand every business finds work arounds when starting out and that’s great, it shows resilience. The key is to recognise when an antiquated operating system is costing you a lot of time and when it requires an update.

Why should you steer clear of spreadsheets?

Sharing data is time consuming.

Does this process sound familiar: Find the data, validate the data, analyse and sort the data, carefully choose and create a graph, copy into a word doc, double check the report, save file to your desktop, attach it in an email, carefully word the email (probably re-read this a few times) and SEND!

Difficult for multiple users.

Most of us have felt this pain, you need to identify one person to update the sheet otherwise all hell breaks loose. If multiple people are updating the sheet separately there will be several versions saved on everyone’s desktop. Additional admin hours are then wasted on updating and creating the MAIN document version AKA “final version”, “final version 1.1”, “updated”, “MASTER_FILE”. You can use tools such as O365 or Google docs which do allow multiple users to access files simultaneously, but some features are disabled.

No relationships between data.

You have multiple spreadsheets, one for employees and one for sales. You want to identify your company’s top sale’s person and send them a gift to their home. This will require filtering and cross referencing between sheets. If your spreadsheets are not formatted correctly, this simple process could take you a while.

No audit trail and risk of losing data.

It is difficult to obtain the time and date of data amendments and even worse you can easily type over or delete cell data unconsciously. If your industry is governed by regulators this will not go down well during their checks.

Poor data integrity and formatting.

If multiple people are operating within the spreadsheets, chances are the naming conventions are different for the same item. For example, One Size Media is also logged as one_size_media, this can cause the business to overlook data and form inaccurate reports. Adding lengthy notes in spreadsheets can disrupt the format of the sheet too, which can cause difficulties when navigating and filtering. Spreadsheets are not designed for word processing.

Spreadsheet development usually requires skilled employees.

Building a spreadsheet which includes automation requires skilled employees to understand VBA and excel formulas. Therefore, the business can become heavily reliant on these individuals.

Saving process time and increasing results should be everyone’s business goal, right?

Now here are some great reasons to swap spreadsheets for a relational business application i.e. SaaS, CRM or ERP system.

Save time cross referencing spreadsheets and free up precious screen space...

A CRM system from One Size Media could solve your spreadsheet woes

Multiple users and better access.

As previously stated, spreadsheets are difficult to manage when a team of people are required to update them. They are not too friendly when opened via mobile devices either. With SaaS applications, multiple users can access the system at once and most apps are configured to be mobile optimised too, perfect if you are on the go and need to understand data, quickly. See mobile device image above.

Improved prospect management.

Managing leads can become a convoluted process, especially doing so on spreadsheets. With a CRM, businesses can manage their leads in status order, store important contact information, add special notes, attachments and even create tasks and assign employees to them. Bespoke applications can link leads to product information and sales staff. Understanding the top sales performers, top selling products and sales lead times are valuable insights and even better when you can discover them at a few clicks of a button.

Instant data relationships and integration.

Using multiple spreadsheets means that each sheet is disconnected from the other. Therefore, if you needed to cross-reference data between sheets it can be time consuming. A CRM system is designed to find relationships between data, and help you view relevant data matches instantly. A CRM tool can also integrate with email and other apps such as MS PowerPoint, Word and Excel, which is handy when organising client contracts, invoices etc.

Enhanced data security.

There is little protection available with spreadsheets, which poses a significant security risk. Employees can have a version of the spreadsheet sat on their desktop, which could cause issues if they left the business. With CRM or ERP applications each user has a username and password and the relevant level of access assigned to them i.e. read only, partial access, full access. If an employee leaves the business you can immediately deactivate their account, protecting your data in the process.

Superior business reports.

You can create high level graphs in spreadsheets. However, to create a more granular report in excel, employees will need to understand commands and formulas to analyse the data. Spreadsheets lack real-time accuracy too, so it will need updating before the data is analysed and extracted into a report. Updating the information on a spreadsheet often takes a while, as it involves various people to populate it. Most CRM systems have built in dashboards which create reports that you wish to see, and because the business conducts their processes within the system the data can be seen in real time.

Running your business on spreadsheets has many limitations, as your business grows so will the difficulties of using excel as your main business tool. If you are ready to move away from spreadsheets and would like to see a demo of what your system could look like, please get in touch.

Contact us

Let's talk

Get in touch today, we can't wait to help.