Your Ability to Customize Spreadsheets is Limited
Spreadsheets offer a low-cost option for organizing data. If you have a Microsoft Office package, you have access to Excel. Or, you may choose to use a free spreadsheet program like Google Sheets. Whatever the specific software, you can gain a lot of functionality for very little financial outlay. But although spreadsheets give you the ability to do things like record inventory and transactions, create graphs and edit your data as you go along, in the end, your options for customization are going to be extremely limited.
As your business grows, you are going to quickly discover the hassles of spreadsheets. Continuing to use spreadsheets, instead of adopting software customized for your specific applications, will sacrifice efficiency in ways that are sure to cost you in the long run.
The Challenge of Customizing Spreadsheets
When you first start using a spreadsheet, it can seem quite flexible and customizable. After all, you can label cells as you see fit, and you can even select formulas from a list to process data in specific ways. But if you try to go any deeper, to really customize the spreadsheet, you will need to understand and be able to do advanced data queries—a skill that few people have, and something that most employees are not going to be capable of.
The ability to create charts based on the data in your spreadsheet can also seem a useful and relatively potent tool. Having a chart that makes your data look professional is exciting at first, and something that most businesses can see the value of. But the more you work with your presentation options for your spreadsheet data, the more you realize that you really only have a limited number of presentation options. Again, you will most likely find yourself running up against a wall with what you can do.
One of the greatest difficulties with spreadsheet customization is scaling the software to fit your growing company. Many companies find that as they go from having one or two employees using a spreadsheet to track data to multiple employees all inputting data, version control becomes nearly impossible. The more people using the spreadsheet, the harder it becomes to track who is doing what and when. It only takes a single mistake that goes unnoticed to create a cascading effect, and you may be unable to identify where the problem started so you can fix it.
The major problem with spreadsheets is that people try to use them to manage business process flow. Spreadsheets were not intended for this purpose and fail miserably.
The Solution: Software Designed for Your Business
Many small and mid-sized businesses eventually reach a point where they realize that their spreadsheet software is just not cutting it. A customized software solution becomes necessary. The initial investment in custom software is more than an inexpensive or free spreadsheet software, but it does not take long to see the value such a solution offers.
Custom software is designed to make your business more efficient by streamlining and automating the tasks that are part of your workflow. Instead of employees needing to figure out workarounds to make spreadsheets work for different tasks, employees are able to get straight to work on what needs to be done. Workflow can be “baked” into the software. When multiple employees are using the software, record history allows you to see who made what changes to the data providing complete accountability.
The learning curve is also much smaller for custom software. The options available to employees are limited to those that are relevant to the work being done. Employees can be on board rapidly, without needing to worry about them getting lost in the plethora of unnecessary options offered by spreadsheets or off-the-shelf software that is designed with a one-size-fits-all philosophy.
If your business is going to grow, you are going to need the right tools—software that can help your business, not hinder it. Software designed specifically for your business is the answer to spreadsheet limitations.