Why reducing reliance on Excel could be your smartest business move this year

You can free up ‘priceless time’ spent maintaining Excel solutions - and work instead on growing your business.

88% of spreadsheets contain errors

Many businesses have grown to rely on Excel for core parts of their process; be this running weekly reports, storing customer accounts or converting customer supplied data into production briefs.

It’s a time-consuming trap that’s easy to fall into.

The huge benefits to be gained by ‘automating’ and ‘optimising’ parts of the day-to-day business routine, drive companies towards the most obvious tool available.

For smaller businesses, this isn’t always a problem. Excel can handle small data volumes without slowing down.

Start-ups also don’t tend to have more than one person in any job role - which reduces the common risk of ‘saving over someone else’s work’ - and the essential backup process is often achieved by emailing files to themselves every night.

There is of course, still the risk of human error. And, as the business starts to grow, the problems begin to mount up.

The business growth problems Excel struggles with

As a ‘small’ business moves into the ‘medium’ bracket - the limitations of Excel become more apparent:

  • Spreadsheets grow larger and take longer to open (updating even a single value can cause Excel to freeze for several minutes)
  • Reports that previously ran in 2 mins now take far longer (rendering your computer unusable during this time)
  • Employees can easily miss a step in the process and create an incorrect order (damaging your reputation)
  • Instructions across the top of spreadsheets often go unheeded (valuable information lost, and time wasted repairing them)
  • Teams can’t all have the same spreadsheet open at the same time (each member ends up with their own copy - making it commonplace for important files to be lost or saved over)
  • Excel training courses (particularly advanced Excel functionalities like macros) are expensive and non-specific to the user (costing time and money for knowledge your business will never use)

This road often leads to someone within your organisation, working a second role as the “Excel Guru”.

Their responsibilities now include: creating workarounds for problems found while trying to scale Excel - doing the work of others who claim “it’s faster (and safer) for ‘the Guru’ to step in and do it for them”and training others on how to use the Excel solutions they’ve built.

Sound familiar?

Ultimately, this leads to an unhealthy work/life balance and drives this valuable individual (and their knowledge) out of the business – this is the biggest risk of relying solely on Excel to your company.

The business growth solutions of leaving Excel behind

Our fully supported IT solutions are most effective if your business currently relies on Excel for any of three core (and crucial) procedures:

1. Data Storage. 2. Data Reporting. 3. Data Processing.

The following is a short breakdown of each new process and the advantages your business gains by moving away from Excel.

1. Data Storage

A full understanding and documenting of your existing data and process is our starting point.

We then work with your business to adapt/retain process elements that work well - and replace those that don’t.

It’s vital that your new process offers ‘the path of least resistance’ to employees, ensuring that it’s easier to follow and builds in validation of any data entered.

We then create a bespoke solution that supports your business process - and enables quick and easy reporting for all teams.

Your designed and implemented system now assists (rather than frustrates) users by focusing on reducing the number of actions they must take.

We achieve this by ‘automating’ as much as possible, providing ‘sensible default values’ and validating and providing ‘instant feedback’ on user input.

The benefits to your business include:

  • Prevention of inconsistent data
  • Allowing scaling and future enhancement
  • Improving the experience of your employees with user-friendly software and automated reports

2. Data Reporting

You may already have a core system in place (often an off the shelf solution from a service provider specialising in your industry).

The issue here is employees having to copy and paste data out of the application, or request database exports from IT to import into Excel.

This means manually completing the same steps each time the report is needed.

To solve this time-consuming problem, we’ll focus on understanding the reports that the business needs - understanding the data already held in the core system - and investigating how it could be used to drive automated reporting.

We’ll then walk you through how automated and extensible reporting could be implemented for the specific needs of your business.

This usually involves the setup of an ‘off the shelf reporting tool’ and optimising it to meet the needs of your company.

The benefits to your business include:

  • Countless hours back in the hands of employees
  • All required information held in one place
  • Anytime access to employees with permissions
  • Instant ‘up-to-date’ reports
  • Faster and far more accurate information available for important business decisions

3. Data Processing

Many businesses use Excel to transform data from one format to another.

Excel works fine in a ‘one-off’ scenario, but, as soon as you need to repeat the exercise on a regular basis, you run into serious problems and lose valuable hours. The solution here is full automation.

We dissect the incoming data and required output format - then document the transformations required to automatically change one into the other.

We also look at how this process fits in with your wider business and whether it can incorporate into an existing system.

A fully automated process creates a far more user-friendly experience - and builds in validation and verification.

In all instances, because the solution we deliver is bespoke to your business process, the training of new users is dramatically simplified and can be delivered ‘in house’ by existing members of the team.

The benefits to your business include:

  • Human error prevention
  • Fully automated ‘real time’ results

Real cases of ‘Reliance on Excel’ costing time, money and reputation

The £600,000 blank line

A large print company specialising in the production of marketing materials used Excel to transform the data received from a high street retailer into a production brief; an employee entered a blank line in the spreadsheet causing £600,000 of print to be produced incorrectly.

10,000 sim cards produced - that don’t work

A well-known telecommunications provider used Excel to manage the allocation of IMSI (international mobile subscriber identity) codes to sim cards; two users had the file open and selected the same unused IMSI codes, one user saved over the top of the other resulting in two batches of SIM cards being produced with the same codes.

These two (true) examples show just how easy it is to make costly business errors when relying completely on Excel.

Data entries input manually, lead to compromised (and often lost) vital business information.

How to reduce your businesses reliance on Excel (and avoid the real dangers of standing still)

Ask any savvy business person for a four-letter word that can safeguard their future and you’ll get the same answer over and over again – time.

It’s the one thing you can’t put a price on – and the main benefit of any business solution.

There are no exceptions here. Every business we’ve helped over the years has benefited (directly or not) by the time our bespoke IT solutions have saved them.

Change is always a little daunting. The “if it isn’t broke” devil whispers constantly to all of us. But, in this case, I advise you to ignore him.

The dangers of relying solely on Excel could slow down or even stop your business advancement in its tracks.

Apart from the countless employee hours your switch will create, you’ll be safeguarding your business from human errorlack of properly ‘backed up’ filesno automated (real-time) reportingand a system lacking in the latest security protocols.

To find out how simple it is to break free from Excel, get in touch below (or click here).

I can’t wait to discuss the future with you.

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