Excel is the most commonly misused program in existence. It is used for all sorts of tasks that it was never meant to handle including business intelligence, reporting, and executive dashboards. When spreadsheets are used in these ways, they can become a waste of money for a business.
Don’t get me wrong, spreadsheets aren’t evil and they definitely have their place in the business. It’s just that they were never designed as multi-department or even multi-person tools. A spreadsheet is a desktop application meant to be used by one person. When the application needs input from multiple people or the data needs to be secure and shared by multiple people, the spreadsheet is the wrong tool for the job. Unfortunately, due to Excel’s ubiquity and ease of use, spreadsheets are often used for such tasks. Be careful though, because one wrong use can cost more than lots of correct ones.
Unfortunately, Excel spreadsheets are misused by many, many businesses. I know of some businesses that are run with spreadsheets. Misuse of spreadsheets wastes money in a few distinct ways:
- They waste time: Many people spend hours every week updating Excel spreadsheets. Let’s look at this from a different angle. If you’re paying people to spend their time on tasks that aren’t necessary, you are wasting money. Manually updating spreadsheets is unnecessary, therefore it’s a waste. (I’ll explain why these tasks aren’t necessary shortly). How much more productive would you be if all that time spent working on spreadsheets could be used on mission-critical tasks?
- They are a huge security risk: After you email a spreadsheet out to others, what happens to it? The fact is, there’s no way to know. In the event that the spreadsheet contains sensitive information, it is completely vulnerable. What if a disgruntled employee leaves the company with that information? You can’t control what happens to it. A spreadsheet with sensitive information could cost your company a bundle if it was ever compromised.
- They waste space: Face it, storage isn’t free. Large spreadsheets, when distributed to many people, can take up a lot of space as each recipient could potentially save the same spreadsheet in a different place on your network. Also, when a new version of that spreadsheet is created and distributed, it is probably saved alongside older versions (which are very rarely deleted), wasting even more space. So, you are paying to store multiple copies of the same spreadsheet in many different places.
- They are inaccurate: If you are using data in a spreadsheet to make business decisions…why? First, the data is old. You could be making decisions based on data that is days or even weeks old. Second, I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard about mistakes in Excel that went unnoticed for weeks. I’ve seen people lose jobs over spreadsheets that were completely ruined when they were accidently sorted by only one column. Businesses that make decisions on old and outdated information are businesses that are not making wise decisions.
Automate your spreadsheets with web applications, save money
If you automate tasks with web applications, you can fix all of the problems listed above. Here’s how web applications can solve each one, and save your company money:
- They will save time: You can create a web application that will collect, analyze, and distribute data at the click of a mouse. A job that formerly took hours to complete will only take minutes.
- They are very secure: You can set security on web applications to limit who sees them. If a disgruntled employee leaves the company, just disable their access and there’s no harm done.
- They save space: Since only one web application needs to be created, you don’t have to worry about multiple versions floating around taking up space.
- They are accurate: Web applications deliver data in real-time, which means business decisions can be made in real-time as well. Also, there’s less risk of human error as the applications can run automatically.
One mrc client was having troubles with their Excel-based shipping system. It was time consuming to maintain, wasn’t scalable, and didn’t provide real-time information. They fixed their problems with a web application that was fast, scalable, and provided up to the second information. You can read the whole story here.