Spreadsheets – Jack of All Trades, Master of None?

I saw a comment on a social media post stating that spreadsheets are not the ideal solution in any situation, but can provide an adequate solution in almost any situation. As you can imagine, this got my back up. How dare they speak of spreadsheets in this way! Then I calmed down and thought about it and, actually, there is some truth in this.

I looked back at all the projects which I have done and, although I used Excel to do them, they could have been achieved in other ways. In fact, I usually promote Excel as a more cost-effective solution for software creation. The main difference is that I use formulas to achieve the end results, rather than programming lines of code. So, what is better – a spreadsheet or software package? Well, ‘better’ is objective, but you can argue that a software package is ‘better’ than a spreadsheet. If you have an off-the-shelf software package that does exactly what you want, it may be better than using a spreadsheet. There, I said it. It hurt a little, but it is probably true.

 
So then why do I use spreadsheets to create solutions?

 

There are a few reasons, but here are some of the main ones:

1. It is FAR quicker and easier to develop than programmed software, so bespoke solutions will be drastically cheaper.
2. Due to point 1, if I need to upgrade a spreadsheet or adapt one, it is easy and affordable.
3. Once your data is in Excel, it is easy to use it for other things. If all of your software solutions are spreadsheets, it means that you can often interchange data.
4. I know how to use Excel, I am really good at it, and I can make it do what my clients need it to.
5. Most people have Excel or some spreadsheet platform rattling around on their computer. Why not use it?
6. It is such a versatile product, and it has so much functionality, that I am still learning more about it each day. It is a good overall solution to use, for many different applications.

 
Conclusion

 

Spreadsheets are versatile, adaptable, relatively affordable and easy to make. They can provide solutions for many different applications and can be made to solve just about any problem. Is there a better solution? If there is an off-the-shelf product that does exactly what you want, then that may be a better solution. Depending on the price, a spreadsheet may still be the better solution, but if the software is affordable then it may be the better choice. If the off-the-shelf solutions don’t quite do what you need, then you have to make a decision. Either squash your business into the ready-made software, or get something bespoke. If you have loads of money, and want to pay for a programmed solution, I wish you all the best. I can even recommend some programmers, if you like. If you don’t have loads of money available for software, then check with me to see if a spreadsheet can provide the solution.

All the best with finding your software solution.

Richard

PS. Do you want to know more about when to use software and when to use spreadsheets? You can see more here.