Why people find it tough to ditch spreadsheets for business

January 18, 2017
Why people find it tough to ditch spreadsheets for business

Electronic spreadsheets for business made their first appearance in the early 1960’s, and were initially used for accounting and budgeting purposes. Over the decades, spreadsheets became more and more sophisticated, to the point where they became the “weapon of choice” for the majority of data-based business processes.

Today, we live in an age of cloud-based technology, where there are tools, apps and systems for almost every business process imaginable. However, millions of people still insist on using spreadsheets for business processes, and seem reluctant to change their ways.

From more traditional desktop programs like Microsoft Excel, to more modern cloud-based spreadsheets like Google Sheets, we wanted to find out why spreadsheets remain such an important part of business. And so, we put the question to the world at large, and asked spreadsheet users to tell us exactly why they are not making the switch to purpose-built systems and business software.

Spreadsheets are still hip – I’m not making the hop

Quanstar is an independent Hip Hop artist from Atlanta. He says that even though he does use a lot of software, spreadsheets are definitely his first choice. Why? Because they serve so many different functions, and they don’t cost him a penny!

“I’m a cheapskate.” he confesses. “Most software that serves my needs has a bunch of unnecessary bells and whistles, or costs more than I’m willing to pay.”

Quanstar uses spreadsheets for almost everything. For example:

  • His address book
  • Calculating his marketing budget for a tour
  • Recording the metatags on his website
  • Keeping basic call records
  • Managing his catalogue

Quanstar loves that he can do all of this for free, and in a format that he is familiar with. In fact, familiarity seems to be a very big reason why people continue using spreadsheets for business.

Spreadsheets may be limited, but they are familiar and carry zero learning curve

Anton Dy Buncio, COO of VIATechnik, is of the opinion that spreadsheets are so useful because you only have to learn them once – whereas purpose-built solutions must be learned every time.

“We are not opposed to cloud tools” he explains, “but we typically stick to spreadsheets because the learning curve is 0. A cloud-based tool takes time to learn.”

Anton admits that spreadsheets are limited, but says that this is often overruled by how simple and easy they are to use. And it seems that a lot of people agree!

Sean Desilva, owner of Every Last Spot, says “spreadsheets centralise all my information and make it easy to mentally process because of the familiar format.”

And Nandhaan Verma, of Matrid Technologies, explains that “I am reluctant to migrate because I do not want to go through the hassle of learning something new, and becoming a rookie all over again.”

Traditional CRMs are too much work

But are spreadsheets really easier to use than purpose-built software? Surely tools and apps for business should be easier and more efficient? Otherwise why would they be built?

Fletcher Wimbush, of The Hire Talent, is somebody who is having a hard time migrating to a traditional CRM for his data collection activities.

“I collect roughly 30 to 60 sales leads per month” he says, “traditional CRM is just too much work to manage. I am trying really hard to migrate, but it just doesn’t seem efficient. Google Sheets is so easy to manage.”

Of course, this could simply indicate that it depends on the job that needs doing, and the way the software is built. After all, Fletcher does believe that spreadsheets are gradually becoming obsolete, and he states that there are certain areas of business where spreadsheets simply cannot handle the volume and complexity of his outgoing communications. For example, his recruiting business is driven by an Applicant Tracking System that Fletcher says he “couldn’t live without”.

You should definitely consider cloud-based tools, but only if you’re sure they’ll make you more productive

Sumit Bansal is the founder of Trump Excel, an online platform that trains people in using Excel spreadsheets efficiently. As a Microsoft Excel MVP (Most Valuable Professional), it’s safe to say that Sumit knows his stuff when it comes to spreadsheets.

“I am a spreadsheet loyalist” he admits, “but I would happily use cloud-based software if it made my work easier, or made me more productive”.

So how do we work out when to use spreadsheets for business projects, and when to use dedicated tools? Sumit says that on a team or small project level, there is no point investing in special software if all team members are already competent with spreadsheets.

“I’m not saying you should never consider cloud-based tools” he explains, “it’s just that the benefit of doing this should heavily outweigh the time and effort of making the switch.”

Do you use spreadsheets for business? Or do you prefer purpose-built applications?

A huge thank you to our contributors for helping us examine the world of spreadsheets from a user’s perspective.

But what do you think about all this? Do you agree that spreadsheets will always have a place because they are cheap and familiar? Or do you think they’ll eventually be replaced by the growing wave of cloud-based software solutions?

Drop us a comment below!

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