The ol’ trusty spreadsheet! It is probably the most popular business tool in the world after email. While Excel isn’t the only spreadsheet tool out there, Microsoft estimates that more than a billion copies of Excel are in the hands of users. That’s a lot of users. And it’s a valuable tool. It allows regular business users to get their data in a format they can use to analyze and report. The pivot table and charts, especially, are what make it most valuable and enticing to users. So why should people use anything else?
Spreadsheets by their very nature are part of the personal computer. Almost every system on the planet can create an export to a spreadsheet and almost everyone has a spreadsheet program installed on their system by default. But let’s focus on the word “personal” in personal computer. This is the crux of the issue! When you export data to a spreadsheet, you move it to a personal copy that others can’t see or use. Plus, you “download” the data into the spreadsheet. That means the data is accurate at that exact point in time only. But within minutes, it’s likely the information is out of date because it’s changed in the original system. It also means we now have copies of critical company data. While this isn’t always a problem, it can be depending on how sensitive the data happens to be.
But probably the biggest issue is that there isn’t really a way to turn a spreadsheet into a collaborative business application. Imagine for a moment if you tried to run your sales force on a spreadsheet, or your help desk. Sure you can track all of the critical information but it would require one person to be the keeper and email it around. You may think this is an absurd thought but we have seen Fortune 100 companies and the federal government both doing just that. Running massively important business processes through email and spreadsheets.
So why do people do this? Because they want the flexibility, power, and pivot capabilities of the spreadsheet. And, unfortunately, they can’t get those through the applications they currently use. They don’t have the proper applications to both manage the people, activities, and processes, and provide reporting necessary to answer the tough questions. We believe true business applications should reside on a scalable database, and cover the intersection of BI, BPM, and collaborative work management. The applications need to be the single source of the truth, but also connect to existing sources versus replicating them. Finally the applications should give people the flexibility to create the same level of reports and analysis they are getting from the spreadsheet.
Every company in the U.S. has pockets of business users who will manage critical business areas through personal copies of spreadsheets. It is a massive productivity leak that isn’t tracked and therefore the loss of countless hours is never fully realized. With a proper application platform, you can get the power of a business application along with the flexibility of a spreadsheet.
Check out CorasNow—our rapid application development platform—and see how you can now have all the great features of a spreadsheet in a collaborative business application.