Spoiler Alert: “Your spreadsheets are holding back your business”

Avi Troub | Apr 26, 2018
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When the spreadsheet first hit our once miniature computer screen, it single-handedly changed the way we did business, saving us lots of time, lots of money and lots of headaches. But since we first laid eyes on its attractive rows and columns that would somehow magically add up, the business world has evolved – and with it, went all the tools we thought we’d ever need to manage a business.

Sure, there’s nothing nicer than an old friend, but while you’ve still got that familiar icon on your screen, spreadsheets are no longer the must-have tool to steer the ship. That said, some old habits are just hard to shake. It’s the good graces of the spreadsheet, it’s warm and welcoming layout that can outweigh the benefits of switching to new tools, even if they’re downright scary. But don’t be fooled. Your spreadsheets can do more harm than good. You’re at the starting gate. You’re primed and ready to surge ahead and they’re holding back your business. Here are 4 reasons why.

  1. Spreadsheets are the Nokia 3310 of the business world

There was a time when spreadsheets would have been a super-efficient way to manage your business. If you had to compare the spreadsheet to towers of lined sheets of paper, 3-ring binders and a calculator, then the spreadsheet wins every time. But the great thing about technology is that it keeps on developing and spreadsheets are no longer the ‘big league’ of business software solutions. Yet, we all still have a soft spot for the spreadsheet, probably because it’s so familiar, comfortable and easy to use.

For small businesses who don’t have a dedicated IT team, upgrading to a more sophisticated business management solution may seem like a daunting task. What we know for sure is that there are lots of alternatives, major players who deliver a range of affordable, user-friendly tools for companies of all sizes. These include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and an endless array of financial management solutions. So, no. Spreadsheets are no longer the only way you can run your business.

  1. Spreadsheets: A breeding ground for error

Spreadsheets are by nature, risky. One wrong decimal point or a cut-and-paste mistake (however unintentional) can go unnoticed for a long time, until it eventually causes havoc to your formulas and runs rampant through your entire document. Depending on the amount of data contained in the spreadsheet, identifying where the original mistake was made, is like hunting for a needle in a haystack.

Not only is this a hassle, it also takes time to correct, not to mention what it does to your and your company’s productivity. Not an original thought, but time IS money, so when employees are spending unnecessary hours manually updating spreadsheets and correcting errors, they’re also taking a toll on your business. Freeing employees from spreadsheets will allow them to focus on higher value tasks.

And the worst case scenario? A mistake in a spreadsheet that’s used to record transactions can have serious financial implications that aren’t realized or rectified until it’s too late. But thankfully, there’s a range of financial management tools for businesses of all shapes and sizes, such as accounting software and invoicing software.

  1. Insecure and costly

Mistakes aren’t the only way spreadsheets can lead to serious financial implications. Spreadsheets are notoriously insecure documents. They can be copied, shared and accessed easily, which can compromise your data – you know, your sacred, confidential company data. The easiest way of protecting a spreadsheet is to add a password.

However, the creator needs to share the password for each spreadsheet with each user – a pretty onerous and insecure task. And with multiple spreadsheets come multiple passwords, which can be tough to track. If the password needs to be changed for any reason (an employee leaves the company), the problem grows into a monster. Even if you’re the sole user accessing a password-protected spreadsheet, there are easy password crackers available for Excel that, in an instant, break through your supposed security.

By adopting more sophisticated tools such as ERP, business leaders will gain greater confidence in the security of their data. With GDPR regulations soon coming into play, it’s more important than ever that companies aren’t at risk of sharing customer data or breaches.

  1. When it comes to forecasting, spreadsheets can be as unreliable as the weather

If all the formulas are correct, spreadsheets are great at providing a neat little data snapshot. However, while Excel contains advanced modelling techniques, including pivot tables, it delivers a single view of your data, even if updated automatically. This means that spreadsheets often have multiple tabs with different data views, each created manually, and even then, it’s still not an ideal view.

There’s more. It’s also not easy to find data for a specific sub-section of your business. As a result, it can be difficult to predict where your company’s going, what’s holding it back, and what’s propelling it forward. In turn, this can make it tough to steer your business in any direction, let alone, the ‘right’ one. With market analysis becoming increasingly important, it’s vital that organizations are equipped with the right business analytics software to make informed business decisions.

Spreadsheets aren’t going to disappear overnight, but they’re no longer the must-have tool for a company to open its doors every morning. The cracks are showing, and they’ll only get wider as technology advances and business models change. It’s now a super-fast evolving business world and spreadsheets are no longer the right tool for the job. Cloud-based software, for example, enables managers to better run organizations through improved insights, with less risk and a lower total cost of ownership.

With so many alternatives available today, businesses still clinging to the all too familiar spreadsheet need to jump ship if they want to dive into (and stay afloat in) the digital age.

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