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How Are Spreadsheets Hurting Your Business?

Why now is the time to consider moving away from spreadsheets and data chaos in order to ensure your business continues to thrive.

Many companies feel safe using spreadsheets for data analysis, using tools like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. Spreadsheets are great for personal use, for small business use… but beyond that it tends to hold people back.

It’s time to consider that Microsoft Excel isn’t the one-size-fits-all solution for every data-related task in your business. For businesses with more than a few employees, spreadsheets aren’t the zenith of financial reporting, customer relationship management, and reporting on business data.

Microsoft Excel is good, but not that good.

Using the right solution, you can find ways of saving money, keeping customers happier, and helping staff to be more productive. Let’s explore…

What is the current state of spreadsheet usage in businesses?

According to a survey of 2,000 employees in the U.S. and U.K.:

Over 20% of employees said that important company information is shared in spreadsheets. But what needs to be considered is how effectively that data is actually presented in the spreadsheet.

Over four in five employees said that they want management to share more info with them about business performance. That’s a pretty clear demand for more transparent data in the workplace!

Employees most commonly only see company KPI data once a month, with over one in four seeing it less than every three months. This is particularly concerning in an age where data should be more readily available than ever before.

Also, nearly half of those polled said their organisation still uses email to distribute data. There are three major issues with this:

  • Email communication is one-to-one so it doesn’t encourage conversation about the data to identify solutions and improvements.
  • It’s very time consuming to blend data, so data is not readily available for employees who need to see it, when they need to see it.
  • Email volume is high, particularly now, which means important data is greatly diluted in an employee’s inbox – far from optimal when business data is crucial.
  • Sending static reports means the data is often already out of date by the time you press ‘send’.

What are the problems with using spreadsheets?

Microsoft Excel is not inherently bad. It has a lot of good use cases, and many people use it every day. To an extent, it’s great for gathering and manipulating data. However, it is very restrictive and requires a lot of manual input and effort.

The pitfalls of using spreadsheets that you need to avoid include:

Data chaos. Before you even begin reporting, you need to aggregate all of your data. “Data chaos” occurs when your data is disparate and difficult to merge. Manually copying and pasting data from spreadsheet to spreadsheet is time consuming, manual, and very frustrating. It can be prone to human error.

Data might not be reliable and up to date. Data is likely not in a reliable, unified source. For example, the customer data your sales team holds might be different to customer service, marketing, and finance. According to research, up to 88% of spreadsheets contain errors.

No focus on what’s important. You’re seeing all the raw data at once, which can make it difficult to distinguish what’s important and what’s not.

Loss of historical data. Microsoft Excel isn’t built to process an enormous amount of historical data. However, updating spreadsheets with only newer data means you miss out on the ability to spot trends over time, or to compare insights across longer time periods.

Data distortion. A lot of people tend to have a handful of graphs they regularly use and feel comfortable with, or pivot tables. This method of data visualisation leaves you vulnerable to data distortion. Data needs to be presented in the right way to find meaningful insights. Line graphs aren’t always going to cut it.

Difficult to securely share. Using Microsoft Office 365 means that using cloud tech, team members can collaborate on spreadsheets together. However that isn’t intended for more than a few users at once. Plus, data can be changed or deleted – so there’s usually more than one version of the spreadsheet anyway. For offline spreadsheets, we’ve already covered why email distribution can be problematic.

Why move from Excel?

Microsoft Excel was designed to store data in spreadsheets. Trying to use it for anything else is going to result in frustration, errors, double data entry, wasted time, and security issues.

Whether you use spreadsheets for financial reports, time tracking, market lists, customer relationship management (CRM), there is a better solution. What that is depends on your unique business needs and what you want to achieve.

For customer data, you could opt for a flexible and dynamic CRM solution. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a solution that can span your entire business. Unify all of your data into one reliable, up to date store – the common data platform. You never have to worry that different teams are using different sources of data again. You get a full 360-degree view of every single customer; their history and interactions and preferences. That means you can build deeper, longer lasting relationships with them and sell more effectively.

Operations Director at healthcare rm says, “Everything is done over CRM. In the last three years the business has been growing, and a growing business needs to have a good system behind it. It’s all about making the system customer-centric. It always was, but it’s about enhancing that. We need to have a robust, streamlined system in the back end, with a customised front end system, for the benefit of our customers.” Read their story >

Learn more in our free “How to Win at Customer Engagement in 2020” eBook. Download now >

 

For business data, you could consider a data and analytics tool. Merge, blend, cleanse and prepare data with ease. Drag-and-drop workflows make working with data a breeze. Advanced analytics allow you to ask “what if” questions without the risk of waiting for answers. Data visualisation platforms replace reams of numbers with the answers you need – fast.

Director of Research Operations at Acritas says, “The deal breaker when choosing Qlik was the ability to bring in different data sources. It opens up a whole world of opportunity to us. We want to bring in all of that, look at the whole picture. That’s a huge selling point to us.” Read their story >

Learn more in our free “Escape Excel Hell and Achieve Incredible Analytics” eBook. Download now >

 

For financial data, there are numerous functionality-rich ERP solutions you could consider. One of these is cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. Business Central is a powerhouse all-in-one business management solution. You gain visibility of financials across your whole business. As it is part of the Microsoft Dynamics suite of tools, there are no siloes between systems and you can sell better and optimise operations. It helps you to streamline business processes, improve customer interactions, and make better decisions.

Final Thoughts

While Microsoft Excel certainly has its uses, and many of us find it useful for small-scale individual tasks, it fails to meet the needs of businesses that have more than a few employees. Find a powerful solution more suited to your unique needs – don’t let Excel Hell and data chaos hold you back.

Today is the day to remove reliance on workarounds and using systems in ways they weren’t intended for. Choose the right solution for your business needs and you can find ways of thriving during this extended period of working from home. And it’s important to remember – you don’t have to do it alone!

That’s what Perfect Image is here for. We’re a trusted IT advisor and we will work with you to understand your pain points and goals and transform them into a tailored IT solution. You want to focus on growing your business – not IT. Work with us to find new and innovative ways of empowering employees, boosting productivity, and improving efficiency.

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