Many businesses out-grow Excel long before they realize they have done so. Excel is, after all, extremely easy to use and provides a very comfortable environment to work in if you simply want a basic repository for key business data.
However, holding on to Excel too long can lead to issues large and small. Take for example, the Excel horror story involving the London 2012 Olympics, in which one keystroke error in Excel led to four synchronized swimming events being oversold. Using Excel instead of a software platform that would have protected certain data fields from user errors caused a big headache for the agency managing the Olympic event ticket sales.
The utility of Excel does not necessarily disappear as a company grows. The danger is in relying exclusively on static spreadsheets instead of investing in new data management and processing tools as your operation expands.
Here are a few ways to tell if your business is in “Excel Hell” and whether it is time to reconsider your approach to how you process your business data:
- You are having to assign the updating and quality control of specific spreadsheets to individuals to maintain trust in the data each contains.
- You actually have IT involved in the updating of Excel spreadsheets in an effort to reduce the time spent with data entry.
- You struggle with reconciling different versions of spreadsheets as employees find new ways of manipulating the data for separate purposes or projects.
- Errors in spreadsheets are causing issues with keeping up with orders or creating expensive inventory overstocks.
If some or all of these descriptions fit your company, all is not lost. There are many affordable ways to evolve beyond the spreadsheet no matter the size of your operation. While there are many “off the shelf” solutions to automate reporting today, even the development of custom processes built on top of an existing data warehouse (like a CRM or ERP) can be worthwhile investments when used to improve operational efficiencies.
Moving from spreadsheets to a real-time reporting process (or a more automated one) is not an overnight change. The best place to start is to work with your management team to identify the reports dependent on spreadsheets and the reasons for them. An honest discussion can help everyone see the weakness in the current process and gain support for change.
If your business would like help reducing its dependence on spreadsheets, contact Triple Helix. We can help you assess your current data management and reporting capabilities and develop a plan for moving beyond spreadsheets.