5 Reasons to Ditch Excel Spreadsheets

Worldwide, over one billion people use Microsoft Office, so it’s safe to say that the number of people who use Excel is in the hundreds of millions. And according to Google Trends, interest in Excel has remained strong over the past decade. Excel is flexible and powerful, used for everything from tracking financial transactions to functioning as a makeshift database.

 

Excel spreadsheets

Excel is great for many purposes, but creating electronic forms is not one of them.

 

However, Excel is far from ideal for many office processes. It’s great for storing information and making calculations, but when offices try to use Excel as a replacement for standardized forms, flaws become obvious. Following are five reasons to ditch Excel spreadsheets as a substitute for electronic forms.

 

1. Multiple Stakeholders Mean Multiple Spreadsheet Versions

It’s easy to make and share an Excel spreadsheet template for, say, budget calculations or project schedules. The problem is, when one person makes a change to the spreadsheet or adds something to a field, other stakeholders’ spreadsheets aren’t automatically updated. That means five different people may have five different versions of a “standardized” spreadsheet – a situation ripe for misunderstandings and errors. Businesses need a solution that updates everyone in a workflow process whenever someone makes changes or additions.

 

2. People Can Do Things in Whatever Order They Want

Suppose you set up an Excel template for reporting business travel expenses. Someone returns from a trip and can’t find a receipt for a taxi, so they fill in the rest of the spreadsheet figuring they’ll send an updated version once the receipt is found. The finance department figures the blank space in the spreadsheet means the person didn’t use a taxi and cuts a reimbursement check that doesn’t include that cost. The returned traveler now has to submit an amended spreadsheet, and Finance has to go through the hassle of cutting another check, wasting time and resources.

 

3. There’s No Audit Trail Without Major Hassle

Unless you design, implement, and enforce rules about saving versions of Excel spreadsheets over time, you can’t know exactly how a given spreadsheet was changed. Maybe a decimal was misplaced a week ago and it has thrown off calculations ever since. Or perhaps two numbers were transposed, or someone misread a “9” as a “4.” Finding errors could be difficult to impossible, forcing you to go all the way back to written notes and hope you notice where the problem arose. Without an audit trail, fixing errors is fraught with complexity.

 

Excel spreadsheets

Without an audit trail, chasing down errors can require major detective work.

 

4. There Are No Reminders or Notifications Built In

Imagine that each department must submit a spreadsheet based on a standardized template as an email attachment. The person in charge of collecting the forms and taking action looks at her email and sees that every department representative has replied by Friday afternoon. She can start on them first thing Monday. But one of the department heads forgot to attach their spreadsheet, and they’re taking next week off. Suddenly there’s a problem. You need a solution that delivers automated notifications upon completion of a form so it’s always clear who has completed it and who has not.

 

5. It’s Difficult to Enforce Compliance and Uniformity

One person fills in a contact form for a new potential customer and enters the phone number in a ###-###-#### format. Another person enters phone numbers in a (###)###-#### format, while another enters them as ##########. Getting everyone’s data formatted consistently can be a time-consuming hassle. With an electronic forms solution, however, you can set up fields so that everyone must enter information in the same format. In fact, you can set up workflows so that data entered once can populate more than one form. It saves everyone time and ensures uniformity and compliance.

 

Conclusion

Excel is used by millions because it’s a great spreadsheet application. It’s probably not going away anytime soon. But Excel isn’t ideal as a substitute for electronic forms. You need a custom form solution that lets you make electronic forms that look like paper forms, but function infinitely better. PerfectForms lets you do exactly this, with an easy drag-and-drop interface. And once you create forms, you can link them into smooth workflows that can significantly speed up processes.

With PerfectForms workflow processes, everyone always uses the same form version, and you can set it up so people can’t submit incomplete forms or forms with improperly formatted information. You can create automated reminders that let the next person in a workflow know that a particular form has been completed and submitted, creating an audit trail that lets you know exactly where any given workflow stands. Try out PerfectForms for free and see for yourself the many ways it’s superior to using spreadsheets as forms.

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