As an accountant with over 25 years of experience, I have spent my working life in Excel. When I started my career financial accounts were prepared manually. As the office junior, I would spend hours adding up each row and column on an extended trial balance with a calculator. The introduction of spreadsheets was a lifesaver and increased productivity exponentially!
However, it’s important to realize the limitations of spreadsheets and that they may not be the best solution for the job at hand. I have been guilty of an over-reliance on them in the past and have seen first-hand businesses that continue to use them when better, securer, more efficient software solutions are available on the market. spreadsheets HR software HR management tools
Below are my 8 reason why it is time to say goodbye.
Data on a spreadsheet is not secure. There are no access controls, and anyone can read and copy the data. What is there to stop someone from duplicating and sending to an unauthorized user? If you are holding sensitive information on a spreadsheet, you should consider migrating to a product that will encrypt this information. The last thing you need as a business owner is a data protection breach, costly in both monetary terms and reputation.
If you think about how easy it is to change the contents of a cell in a spreadsheet or change the formula even when just reading the spreadsheet, data corruption is a real issue. It’s very easy for the information in a cell to change or be deleted and you don’t even realize it until it’s too late. How about if you need shared access? Files can easily be duplicated, with the wrong version being updated and data lost. Valuable time in your day can be wasted recreating corrupt data.
Most software systems can be built to ensure that input fields carry a validation check to ensure the correct information is documented. For example, if you need to include an employee's national insurance number or social security number on file, the software tool is likely to be expecting x number of characters or numbers and will give you an error message if a mistake is made. On a spreadsheet, there is no such check, you could lose one character or number and find your data incomplete at a later date.
It’s very easy to build a spreadsheet with too much data, or so complex that it becomes unwieldy and no longer the easy-to-use tool it was intended to be. When your system reaches a certain size or complexity, it’s time to change.
Whilst a spreadsheet to track your finances or your employee data might be ok when it is just you and one or two people, how will it cope when you are head of a team of 50 and turning over millions in revenue a year? Spreadsheets are great in those early stages when money, time, and other constraints are in place, however, if you intend to grow your business it is very important to get the right systems and tools in place at an early stage. The system should be able to flex and support the growth of your business. Get your foundations in place for future success.
Think about where your spreadsheets are stored. I bet that they are not all in the cloud. How do you access that important document when you are away from the office? Or your laptop is broken? Linking back to the success of your business, if it’s important the data is accessible when you are out and about, or if you need shared access, maybe a spreadsheet is the wrong tool to use.
Creating a spreadsheet, maintaining it, fixing it when it breaks, and correcting the data because it didn’t save correctly all take time. To most business owners, time is a valuable commodity. Don’t waste time when there is an easier, quick solution on the market for you. Usually, after the initial investment in time to set up the system, using the right software product will save you time.
My final point may not be relevant to every business, however, if you are required to have a financial or security audit being able to show your auditors a full audit trail within your systems will benefit the process. If they are looking for controls within processes, a spreadsheet that can be read, changed, shared, or deleted by anyone does not mitigate risk. A software tool that tracks changes and monitors access will. Make that change
Change can be difficult for all of us, and to go from feeling in control of your data and the safety and comfort of a spreadsheet to a new software tool, can feel challenging to us all. It can feel like a step too far out of your comfort zone. However, experience tells me it is usually worth it. I have made the switch several times and thought, why didn’t I do that sooner!
With the number of tools, apps, and software systems out there, it’s worth the investment to find the right one for the job. You will thank yourself in the long run.
Please note the information presented on this website is provided as a general guide and is not a substitute for legal or tax advice. For specific advice, be sure to consult with a qualified professional.