Are Spreadsheets Killing Your Business?

In order to understand how most people and businesses have arrived at such a great reliance on spreadsheets in the workplace, we need to understand where it started and how we got here. The first appearance of a digital spreadsheet VisiCalc (for “visible calculator”) was the first spreadsheet computer program for personal computers, originally released for the Apple II by VisiCorp. 

Conceived by Dan Bricklin after a presentation at Harvard, spreadsheets were originally intended to solve multiple formulas all at once instead of editing entries on paper or a blackboard. VisiCalc’s success is linked to its ability to instantly and automatically change an entire sequence when editing one portion of the formula. 

During the mid 1980’s into the1990’s Lotus 123 was the spreadsheet standard for most businesses. They offered a robust solution for office automation that many relied on until the birth of the graphical user interface known as Windows 95. Microsoft put into motion an extremely user-friendly platform called Microsoft Office, which became the industry standard that many use today. 

getting rid of spreadsheets

How and Why Most Businesses Today Rely on Spreadsheets

The majority of businesses rely heavily on spreadsheets for inventory tracking, services and support ticket management, personal or business task tracking, sales or expenditures, activity or audit reports on company employees or even internal system users. The reason for this heavy reliance on spreadsheets is due to the low cost of entry and usage. Google sheets can be used in its full feature set for absolutely free, and this makes for an attractive solution to what might appear to be a basic need of managing data.

Microsoft and Google have tapped into the spreadsheet realm, allowing for cloud-based storage solutions, multiple users, chatting and commenting capabilities all without conflict. All of these features make it very easy to choose this prebuilt solution rather than going the route of custom software, web-based solutions, web apps or even progressive web apps (PWAs). Custom web apps can cost a significant amount of money to develop, but they also require a heavy time investment on the part of the company needing them, if they are to be developed to accomplish a specific company task or workflow.

custom web apps

How Custom Web-Based Apps Can Make Your Business Thrive

For many small businesses, much time and effort go into creating a company workflow revolving around prebuilt software for the purpose of completing a single task. Oftentimes, it can take many different software solutions to handle all company tasks, leaving the organization with broken processes, multiple expensive software solutions and still relying on spreadsheets to tie all of the data together.

Custom Web-Apps and Web-Based Applications 

Progressive web apps can do almost anything a native iOS or Android app can do at this day and age, making it a very popular choice for new web apps. It also has the flexibility to extend the app to all devices, not just mobile devices. Organizations needing an office use application while having sales representatives or support technicians that travel would benefit greatly from a progressive web app.

A Custom Web App Can Keep You Ahead of Your Competitors

Investing in developing a custom web application for your business becomes vital at a certain point. While it allows you to create processes and workflows for all of your employees to operate in, it keeps all of the data within one easy-to-access location. Because data is now housed within one solution, creating new reports and dashboards from new filters or criteria become much easier. While others are spending critical man hours on pulling data from different sources together to come to a conclusion about what their next business move needs to be, those on custom web apps can easily be ahead of the game and already know the next move.

manual data entry

Web Apps Can Provide Far More Security for Sensitive Data

One of the most flexible parts of custom software is in the area of security. Roles and permissions can be easily created to grant certain people or departments access to company vital information, while others may just have the ability to do basic data entry in another section of the web app.

Not only can you control whose eyes see what data, but you can also create data logs on important events or actions within the system. If our web app was storing social security information that needed to be visible by users in the system, it would be a great feature to hide the social security number until it was specifically requested by a user. Based on this feature request, we could easily create a data log event that captured the requesting user’s ID, date and time of when a user decided to show or unhide a social security number. These are not features you could easily build into spreadsheets.

Why Custom Software is a Better Alternative to Spreadsheets

It’s a known fact that personnel is the most important and costly asset to a business. Which poses a problem for today’s fast-paced businesses, time is money and most executives dislike changing the structure of their business model to fit a canned software solution. Training and hiring consultants is a timely and expensive venture that slows production while creating stress on valuable staff members.    

  • Custom software is best when it’s built around the way the company works, not making the company work around the software.
  • Custom software can help your company and personnel become efficient to the point that it allows staff who are vital to the company to focus on more pertinent company tasks. Oftentimes company executives spend their time in handling reporting needs rather than running the company. Custom software can eliminate the need for executives to spend time putting data together.
  • It’s easy to train new staff how your company process works, because the custom software was built to fall in line with the way the company works. It’s also easy to document the company process based on the custom software’s workflow.

company workflow

Also, adding to or growing an “out of the box” software solution is a timely, complicated process. In most cases, software developers will wait till they have a large enough need before starting any addition to their software. Meaning, it may never happen or the product becomes obsolete forcing businesses to buy another solution to assist where the previous program failed. 

  • Custom software application is modular in a sense that it can grow with your company, not forcing you to have a new solution each time your company process changes.

company resources

Having multiple software solutions has the ability to create segregated data. Meaning, data has to be entered multiple times leading to a greater risk of typos and inconsistent data, because the information is living in two different environments. This also creates a counter-productive system simply because of the need of additional employees, checks and balances and time spent correcting problems. 

  • It can even eliminate the combined use of multiple software solutions, creating a single sign-on area for every employee or user.
  • It can potentially reduce the need for additional staff who have been spending their time updating spreadsheets or managing redundant data across multiple systems.
  • It can eliminate the need to enter the same data into multiple places, which reduces redundancy, potential confusion and user error.

Begin Building a Custom Web Application for Your Company

If you find yourself completely reliant on spreadsheets and realize that it is time to move to a solution that benefits your company or organization, we can help. The Web Initiative is a company designed around creating web-based software solutions and apps that fulfill the needs of the client.

If you’d like to provide us with a few details about your company and what you’re looking for, we’ll be prepared to virtually meet with you in efforts to create a storyboard and work mock-ups of what your application may look like.

We’ll be able to provide you with an estimate of what your application can cost before beginning development.

Contact us today to get started. Follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for daily tips, information, behind the scenes and case studies.