February 15, 2022 Application Modernization

When It’s Time To Rethink Your Excel Business Strategy

Microsoft Excel is a wonderful spreadsheet tool with a wide range of functionality to help manage your business. It’s familiar to most people, which makes using the application easy. And there are many experts out there that can program Excel to do some very complex and amazing things. 

But Excel alone is not a business application strategy. It has its limits. And if you’re running a core part of your business on a monstrous spreadsheet, you could start experiencing some growing pains as your solution struggles to scale. 

Excel For Business Is Great…To A Point 

Don’t get us wrong, we love Excel as much as everyone else. We all use it every day and it’s a fabulous tool for a range of business applications including: 

  • Business analysis, accounting and administration.  
  • Inventory and order tracking. 
  • Project management and time tracking.  
  • Customer relationship management. 
  • Creating visual charts, forms, checklist.  
  • Modelling unstructured data. 
  • Migrating data from one application to another. 
  • Pulling information from another application, like accounting software, and running a report against that dataset. 
  • Capturing data and organizing it before it is loaded into a new system. 
  • As a front-end solution to access data that’s stored in other applications or platforms. 

You can even build your own Sudoku puzzle in Excel if you’re so inclined! Excel is incredibly flexible and powerful, and since everyone knows how to interact with it on some level, staff find it simple to use and collaborate on. But it’s that same familiarity that can get companies who rely on complex spreadsheets into trouble. 

Signs It’s Time To Rethink Your Reliance On Excel  

Spreadsheets often become so ingrained, it can be hard for a business to fathom moving to something different. However, reliance on Excel will limit a business’ ability to expand and grow. Especially if you’re relying on one employee to manage all the programming and formulas.  

Here are some warning signs your business application strategy may need to go beyond Excel spreadsheets: 

  • You have massive spreadsheets with a dozen or more tabs that take forever to open. 
  • They include very complex calculations that require expertise to manipulate. 
  • No one knows what some of the calculations are even for or what they do. 
  • It’s not integrated into other core applications. 
  • Staff must re-enter data into multiple places or into other platforms. 
  • You can’t add new functionality to extract the information or insights you want. 
  • It can be challenging to use in a collaborative setting where many different people are accessing and entering data into the same spreadsheet. Version control becomes difficult. 
  • It’s easy to inadvertently change data sets or formulas, and that could mean the data you are viewing and making decisions on could be wrong and you won’t know it. 
  • You’re growing and can’t scale to meet that growth. 

Since the launch of Microsoft 365 the capabilities of Excel have grown even more. But Excel starts to show its cracks when multiple people in an organization are accessing it and trying to do in depth analysis or more extensive workflow automation across a growing and expanding operation. 

So, if your business is growing and your spreadsheets ballooning to the point of creating more work, it’s time to rethink your reliance on Excel. 

Getting bigger means that you need to get more organized. Working fast and loose may have been fine for your small team of superstars, but it won’t work as well with a bigger group. As your ranks grow and positions that were filled by individuals transform into teams of people, the need to stay organized becomes amplified. Brian Hamilton, Chairman of Sageworks 

Looking Beyond Excel  

The scenarios mentioned above is something we commonly see when new clients approach us. You wouldn’t believe some of the gnarly spreadsheets we’ve had to comb through. But how do you know what is life after Excel? Well, that’s where an expert software developer comes in.  

Since businesses use Excel for so many different purposes, there’s no one single answer as to what application or platform is the right one. The first step is always an in-depth review. We dig into what these massive spreadsheets are doing today, and what the objectives are for the future. We need to understand the workflows customers are trying to capture, which ones they want to automate, and what they would like to be able to do but currently can’t. And of course, we look at the data – what are customers capturing and why. I can’t tell you how often we see companies capturing unnecessary and unused data points. 

It’s also critically important to look at the future objectives and plans for the business. Whatever solution is replacing your Excel spreadsheet needs to be well-suited to your expansion plans. It can’t just be good for now. It also has to be good for the future and be able to scale as needs change.  

Next, we look at what solution makes the most sense based on your needs, plans and budget. There is much to consider at this stage like choosing between off-the-shelf and custom software. Do we build the application(s) from the ground up or start with an existing platform like Dynamics 365 CRM or Power Platform? (See if a low code development platform is right for your business). 

Microsoft products and cloud services revenue increased 29% driven by Dynamics 365 revenue growth of 45%. Microsoft 2022 Q1 Report  

Application Modernization: Is It Time?

We often talk about application modernization because we see the need everywhere and it’s what many of our clients come to us for help with. The reality is that many businesses are still running on outdated or inadequate applications—Excel being one common scenario.  

Moving your business to a modern, cloud-based platform opens up a whole new world of productivity, efficiency, intelligence and scalability. Not to mention the ever important application security 

Are you still running your business on Excel? Ready to scale up your business application strategy? Let’s chat. 

For many organizations, legacy systems are seen as holding back the business initiatives and business processes that rely on them, When a tipping point is reached, application leaders must look to application modernization to help remove the obstacles. Stefan Van Der Zijden, VP Analyst, Gartner

Link to Application Modernization Guide