Excel spreadsheets are ubiquitous, mainly because we believe Excel works just fine for a number of tasks and processes. We also feel that Excel based work costs us nothing as we’ve already invested in the software, and our teams are familiar with it.
And it’s true that Excel really does work out well for one-off requirements. However, when you use Excel to handle regular data collection, analysis and reporting, then you end up with a very clumsy and tedious process. The hidden costs are high, and can include unhappy customers, frustrated teams and even revenue leakages.
So what are the challenges with Excel based reporting? To list those, it’s important to think about the alternative first. The best way to manage ongoing data collection, analysis and reporting is to use web-based applications that are easily used on mobile devices as well, and are designed to your specific business workflows. Let’s see why these automated workflows are better than Excel:
Difficult to analyze trends over time
Many people simply over-write data in cells in Excel sheets with new data. Spreadsheets are usually not designed to recognize patterns, so historic trends are hard to recognize, and predictive analytics is not possible. With a workflow automation application, the power of data analytics can be leveraged to help with business decision making.
Difficult to enforce access rights
Whose job is it to enter certain data? Who’s authorized to view it or change it? When you work with spreadsheets, it becomes complex to enforce these rules and ensure the sanctity of data. When spreadsheets are shared, the danger of data being deleted or over-written is very real.
No easy way to setup and enforce approval workflows
Many times, a particular individual initiates a process and it then needs to be approved by one or more authorized persons. In some cases, there are rules to decide the right approving authority in a particular instance. When all this is being managed in spreadsheets and emailed around, there is no real tracking and control. With a workflow automation application, approval procedures can be defined and enforced very conveniently.
When data from multiple Excel users has to be collated, any variations in terminology or mapping create a nightmarish situation. With a web application, this happens automatically, at a command or a pre-defined schedule.
Management Dashboards are hard to set up
When an Excel spreadsheet is shared, the raw data is visible along with any charts or graphs you may create. This causes confusion, and doesn’t help to see the most important information at a glance. With a workflow automation application, you can design dashboards for decision makers and ensure they show current information. Powerful visualization techniques help to present the information in ways that best support decision making.
These 5 factors prove the power of web and mobile apps that are designed for your business workflows. Trying to achieve the same results with Excel spreadsheets simply leads to wasted time and effort and overall frustration.