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Does Excel still work?

My experience over the last 15 years in the construction industry working directly with Excel, is that it is heavily relied on for storing supplier information, creating quotation documents, generating project costing reports, maintaining labour schedules and so on. The list is endless.

But is Excel fit for today’s modern working methods and team reporting structures?

There is no doubt that using Excel can be a useful business tool for many organisations. Its flexibility means it’s great for storing data and formulating charts on a smaller scale, the pricing structure is within any company budget and its easy to use functionality makes it accessible to technophobes. This is what makes it easy to rely on Excel ahead of other products, coupled with the fact that it can be easier to stick with what we know. If it isn’t broke, then why fix it?

We live in a world far removed from when Excel was introduced as an office based tool run by a few individuals, now everyone has smart phones, laptops and access to in-house corporate systems. In today’s world does Excel meet the quick, agile world needed to survive?

Sharing data – One major flaw with the use of Excel is the lack of online functionality. The recent COVID-19 outbreak has shown that companies need the flexibility that only cloud-based options can supply. This is especially important when it comes to sharing data and working on one central system which Excel is unable to provide.

Mistake prone – Following on from the lack of a centralised system comes the ability to make more mistakes with the use of Excel. Saving over documents, inputting incorrect information and using old revisions are just a few examples of day to day errors found. Also, using one document that can be altered by many different people means there is likely to be no way of tracking if something goes wrong and where the mistake has originated.

Analytics and reporting – Due to the fact that Excel is a closed end system, the majority of data entered into the document has to be created manually. Even with the use of formulas, there are elements of data entry that are not automated and require manual input. There are no analytics functions on Excel so multiple documents are needed for differing projects, departments, offices etc which makes analysing company data difficult.

Hard to understand – For many, spreadsheets can be hard to understand because everyone has their own way of using Excel. Different colours, formulas and data branches can be great when needed but can also overwhelm the information when someone is viewing it externally.

It’s counterproductive – Once a spreadsheet is created, it usually requires a lot of updates and maintenance to get the full use out of it which can mean the input of information becomes a time consuming and mundane task. Also, there are times when a lot of information created is duplicated elsewhere or goes unused.

What alternatives then?

These issues are what many cloud-based software solutions are looking to combat in more efficient and effective ways. There are so many alternative options to Excel that are available today and range from project management solutions to cloud-based accounts programmes. Features such as data analytics can help reduce costs and streamline a business while cloud-based options give the flexibility of working remotely with little changes to day to day process.

What are your thoughts on your business' use of Excel?

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