Our Solutions to 10 Reasons Given for Not Using Spreadsheets

I love making spreadsheets, and use them for just about anything, but many people don’t use spreadsheets. I set out on a mission to find out why. What are the reasons why people don’t turn to spreadsheets as a solution? Are they valid reasons, or just misconceptions? I asked people on various platforms why they do not use spreadsheets (or what puts them off using them) and collected the top 10 reasons. Here they are (in no particular order) along with my thoughts on each.

1. We need to collaborate, and spreadsheets are not good for that.

Firstly, seeing as were talking about spreadsheets, let’s first acknowledge that there are various spreadsheet platforms. They all offer varying degrees of collaboration possibilities. Google Sheets was known for being collaboration-friendly, and in my opinion that was the only reason why Google Sheets even came close to Excel. Excel have spent a lot of time and effort in making their product more collaborative and have done so using SharePoint. They did have a sharing option before the cloud (remember when all the computers were hardwired to one drive?), but many people didn’t know it existed. So, to cut a long story short, if you’re seeing ‘locked for editing’ messages popping up, it probably has more to do with your setup than Excel. My wife and I use SharePoint and Excel, and we can use the same spreadsheet at the same time, in fact we can see what each other is doing as we do it. That is also using the Excel desktop application, not even Excel Online which arguably has more collaboration opportunities.

2. I use a bookkeeping software, so I don’t need spreadsheets.

Ah, this old chestnut. The number one response I get when I tell people I make spreadsheets is, “Oh, you mean for accountants?” No. Spreadsheets were once used for bookkeeping purposes, but that is most definitely not where their usefulness ends. With many bookkeeping software solutions now being available, I find that I make very few (if any) bookkeeping spreadsheets. If you ‘re stuck in the mindset that spreadsheets are only for bookkeeping, look at this page showing 50 solutions we’ve provided, or see our ready-made spreadsheet ranges to see just what is possible. We’ve made all sorts of applications using Excel, from CRM to data analysis and project management to process tracking. While many of our spreadsheets may have a financial element to them, very few are for bookkeeping.

3. I don’t know how to make spreadsheets, so no idea where to start.

This is a valid point, although Excel is fairly straight forward to pick up and use, it is very difficult to get to the point of using it efficiently. That’s why I’m here and do what I do, so that everyone can have the benefit of a purpose-built spreadsheet for their business, without having to make it themselves. If you have no idea how to make a spreadsheet, you have 3 choices. 1. Don’t make them, don’t use them, and dip out on the solutions they could provide. 2. Learn how to make them. This can take a lot of time, but if it is a skill you wish to develop, it could be worth the time spent. If this is you, I have a series of DIY videos that may help. 3. Pay someone like me to make them for you. To be honest, even if you are quite good at making spreadsheets, this may be the best option anyway. I make spreadsheets all the time, if I am better at it than you are (I may not be, but assume that I am), I could probably make something better that you can in a shorter space of time. If you know what you’d like to make, think about how long it will take you and calculate a value based on your hourly rate. Then get a quote from me. If my price is within your price calculation, and I can make it better than you, then it really is silly to try and do it yourself. If this sounds like an option, check out this blog post about why it’s better to outsource the creation of your spreadsheets.

4. Spreadsheets can’t do what I want to do.

Yes, I hear this often. Let me ask you this. Do spreadsheets not do what you need, or can you not do what you need using spreadsheets? The two are very different. I can’t draw a picture of a dog. Is that because the paper and pencil aren’t good enough, or just because I can’t draw? Yes, there are things that spreadsheets can’t do, but rather hear that from someone who knows more about making them than you do (if in fact you don’t). If you have a project in mind, but you’re not sure if spreadsheets can do the job, get in touch and ask. I am more than happy to hear what you need and offer suggestions. I won’t charge you anything until I have quoted you for the job, and you’ve accepted the quote. I’ve heard the phrase “Oh, I didn’t know you could do that with Excel” many times when people see my spreadsheets. Please don’t miss out because you think it can’t be done.

5. I don’t know what I want the spreadsheet to do.

This is a valid statement. In fact, you’re not alone. Many people who contact me don’t even know what they want the spreadsheet to do. They’ve been using a spreadsheet, and want a better one made, but they’re not sure what they want it to do. That is not a problem, we can discuss that. Ask yourself this question, “What do you want to achieve by using the spreadsheet?”. That will give you a good idea as to why you need the spreadsheet, and possibly shed some light on what you want it to do. Also, I am not shy, I will most definitely offer suggestions once I know what you’re trying to achieve. If you have a need that you think a spreadsheet can solve, don’t be shy, get in touch and let’s discuss it.

6. Spreadsheets are not good as databases, and I need a database.

Ah, with this one I must agree. Many people use Excel to store data or for databases, and there are better solutions available. Access for one was made for large databases. There are two things to keep in mind though. How big is the database, and what do you want to do with the data? Excel is good at analysing data and producing reports (if the spreadsheets are made to do so). Many database solutions are great for storing databases and looking up results, but not great at reporting. If you want the whole solution on one platform, you may still be able to use Excel, provided the database is not too big. How big is too big? Well that depends on what you want to do with the data. As a rule of thumb, I’d say anything with more than 50,000 lines would not be efficient in Excel. Anything with fewer that 10,000 lines would work well in Excel. The values in-between would very much depend on what you want to do. For those of you who have used Excel a few years back and found it to crash with long databases, it has improved somewhat, but is still not as good as other solutions. If you’re not sure if your database will work in Excel, let’s have a chat and I’ll test it for you.

7. The formulas are always getting broken and rendering the spreadsheet useless.

This comes down to how the spreadsheets are made. If you get a spreadsheet from me (a ready-made or bespoke solution) you will never see a single formula. You will not be able to over-write formulas. I move most of the formulas off the sheet, and then hide the cells and lock the workbook (and worksheet). For the formulated cells that are on the page, they will also be locked, so you can’t over-write them. Yes, there are some things that you could do to ruin the spreadsheet, but I will show you how to avoid those (here they are). Even if you do these things and mess up the spreadsheet, it is easily fixable by transferring the data to a new working spreadsheet.

8. I need cloud-based software.

Why? Even if you do, why not put your spreadsheet on SharePoint or OneDrive? There, it’s now cloud-based software. Cloud-based means that it is held on the cloud (and accessed from the cloud), your (Excel) spreadsheet can be where you put it and accessed via a desktop application or via an internet browser. In fact, at least with spreadsheets you know where your data is being held. That makes GDPR much easier to navigate, as you don’t have to find out where all your software providers are hosting your data. You know where it’s hosted because you put it there.

9. I never know where to enter data, and what is formulated data.

This is true. I often get sent spreadsheets, and I can’t see the manual entered cells for the formulated cells. If they’re not locked, it’s easy to over-ride formulas. If they are locked, you keep getting a message popping up telling you that the cells are locked. I solve this issue by doing two things. 1 . I separate the two kinds of cells. So, if there are 8 columns required, 4 locked and 4 manual entry, I’ll put the 4 manual entry first followed by the 4 formulated cells with a space in-between. 2. I colour co-ordinate them based on the type. If you look at the ready-made spreadsheets on my website, the Basic Range are yellow and blue (yellow for unlocked, blue for locked and formulated). The others are usually red and green (red for unlocked, green for locked and formulated). I usually use the client’s corporation colours to achieve this with bespoke solutions. This makes it easy to see what data is required, and what will automatically calculate.

10. I just don’t see the need for a spreadsheet.

This is not because it doesn’t have a use, it’s because you don’t realise the potential of a well-made spreadsheet. If you’re wondering what can be achieved using spreadsheets, my website is full of examples for inspiration. Look at 50 problems solved using Excel, or at our read-made solutions. Or you can download a spreadsheet to help you find the right spreadsheet.

So, there you have it. Were these concerns of yours? If so, I hope this has helped. If you’d like to know more or find out what can be done for your business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

All the best.