Microsoft Excel is a very powerful, versatile and highly useable tool, in the right hands it can be a powerful system to help manage key aspects of your business. However if it is used incorrectly it can cause problems.
One of the biggest issues with Excel is the fact that it can only be accessed by one person at a time – so you either have one centralised copy which leads to shouting around the office to close the document so you can work on it or you have local copies which means data is spread out amongst these copies making analysis cumbersome and a lack of shared knowledge across the business. Excel also can’t deal with issues such as role based permissions. On the other hand I have encountered many situations where Excel has been successfully used to manage a process or business function – it has been properly thought out and has enough in built complexities and flexibility to manage large processes. Its use of formulas is very complex yet easy enough to create and if you know your stuff you can develop Excel to have a good UI.
There often comes a time however when it is time to move away from Excel and build a bespoke software solution instead. A bespoke solution eradicates the issues Excel has that I have listed above whilst retaining all the benefits Excel can give. It’s accessible anywhere with an internet connection, its secure, it can handle multiple concurrent users, more flexible and is better at managing and analysing your data. However a bespoke solution will require careful thought and planning meaning it will be a more costly option and it will take longer to develop and implement into a business than your old Excel solution.
The nightmare scenario occurs when a business makes the decision to implement a bespoke software solution but a lack of planning, process mapping and thinking about how the business (and therefore the system) will grow, adapt and change in the future results in a system that doesn’t quite do the job it’s supposed to and users resort to using Excel spreadsheets in addition to the system you have developed. Using excel to cover up the gaps in a system is a horrific use of resources and a crying shame to systems & process centric people like myself. I’ve seen countless occasions where people have resorted to using a spreadsheet to help them manage a function when there is a system already developed that could do it for them but their frustrations with the system or their lack of understanding on what the system can do has led to them working outside of it. This means an un-centralised, unauthorised document is being use that no one else in the organisation has any knowledge of; meaning your systems are not controlling your business, people are. Whilst this may work in the short term due to the diligence of the people using it what happens when that person is off sick, on holiday for 2 weeks or gets a new job? It is therefore vitally important therefore to properly plan when you consider embarking on developing a bespoke solution to replace your Excel solutions.
Ultimately which option to use in your business is up to you – you have to weigh the pro’s and cons of both; Excel or Bespoke software applications. You need to consider your budget, the importance of the tool in your organisation, what benefits and frustrations each will cause you, how important is the data within the system and your (and the process concerned) potential for growth in the future as your business grows.
Luckily at Red Robot Systems we do both – so if you need a solution building or updating in Excel or if you want to take your systems to the next level at build a bespoke software application we are here to help! Contact us on 01642 634 865 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your next Software project