Microsoft Excel is powerful and still used today as the most widely used data management tool. It's hard not to love how accessible Excel is and how it can easily transform your business data to provide meaningful insights. Especially for small businesses, Excel can help you quickly start tracking your growing company‘s data and help you stay organized. The biggest bonus? Excel is already included in your Office 365 subscription, meaning you can begin using it today at no additional cost.

However, as your business sees rapid expansion or even consistent growth over time, your need for increased reporting, security, accessibility, scalability, and overall efficiency is at an all-time high. How do you know when those data spreadsheets you (or someone before you) created aren’t cutting it as a data management system anymore. How do you know when to transition to custom software instead?

5 challenges you may face using spreadsheets as your company’s data management system:

1. Multiple people accessing/updating data & software version control

As your business continues to expand and hire more team members, using spreadsheets to collaboratively manage your data can be complicated. If you are still working on-premise and have not yet migrated your data to the cloud, and even if your spreadsheets are stored in the cloud, file changes don’t always sync, someone might download the spreadsheet to their desktop and not update the master copy, or you might be locked out of the spreadsheet as someone else works in it. This can mean that there might be multiple software versions of your data floating around, giving you an inaccurate picture of key business metrics.

Version control is a procedure that is used to manage the changes being made to software, databases, and websites. Furthermore, every change can be viewed by users so that they are aware of the changes being made by other users. In an ideal situation, version control systems make older versions of the documents easily accessible so time can be saved. Excel has difficult-to-use version control. If two or three users are compiling their data and everyone has their spreadsheet, then you will have to compile and organize all the different spreadsheets which are counterproductive and cost time and effort.

2. Security concerns

Spreadsheets simply do not provide a good level of protection against prying eyes & security vulnerabilities are needed to maintain a secure record of data. Using data spreadsheets means you can’t give users different levels of access, accurately track changes made to the data, or prevent data from being deleted. Not to mention that a spreadsheet can be easily emailed to the wrong person or set of people, causing liability for your organization. 

3. Data isn’t accurate due to delays in entry

With the complexity of some businesses today, you may have dozens of data sources. If the data you’re collecting comes from a third party or multiple sources of internal company information, it can be difficult to ensure that your spreadsheet is consistently accurate. It’s no secret that there’s often a delay in data collection and entry due to the manual nature of using Excel to manage your data. This can mean significant delays in taking action based on your company’s data, which could lead to you falling behind against your competitors.

4. Time involved in updating data is too much

Entering data into a spreadsheet is manual and time-consuming, especially as the amount of data you’re collecting continues to grow. Think about how much time your team is spending on entering and maintaining the data on these spreadsheets, even just opening a file with thousands of rows, which may take a lunch hour to open– is that a worthwhile investment of their time? Could they be spending their time focusing on the growth of other areas of your business instead of doing manual data entry? Think about how much time could be saved on your team if your data management system had an automated entry process.

5. Processes simply aren’t sustainable anymore and more complicated functions are needed

What worked best for your business 5 years ago might not be what works best now. It can be easy for a team to bootstrap their data management strategy by using Excel initially. However, as your business or department sees growth, these strategies cannot always be sustained and aren’t easy to build upon. If you frequently find yourself using heavy-hitting functions like PIVOT, VLOOKUP, and SUMIF, you’ve reached the peak of Excel’s ability. If you’re getting frustrated at collecting, reviewing, and modeling your company data each month, it’s time for a change to something more sustainable.

Custom Software as a Data Management System Solution

If any of the above signs seem familiar, you’ve probably outgrown using data management spreadsheets and it might be time to explore other data management system options. 

Interested in learning more about how custom software can transform your processes? Check out this blog post on why custom software is important for your business and contact our team today to get started!