The business world used spreadsheets long before the invention of the computer. It should come as no surprise then, that most businesses use spreadsheet applications. They're easy to work with and contain many features such as data display, reporting, and analysis. They are versatile and inexpensive. In the hands of a knowledgeable expert, they can even be useful as an engineering analysis tool.
With all of these benefits, how can spreadsheets possibly be a problem? When they cease being a single user tool, when they are used to store critical business data, and when they get shared among different people and departments, they become a liability. Multiple copies of spreadsheets that are passed around a company make version control nearly impossible. Important data can be accidentally or intentionally changed. Important analysis equations and macros within spreadsheets can be accidentally changed. A slip of the finger that changes a coefficient or an exponent, drastically changes an equation's behavior. Correct data that's incorrectly analyzed leads to wrong business decisions.
Spreadsheets do not scale well. As your business grows, the size and complexity of your spreadsheets increase. They get larger, and the complex interrelationships among cells within the spreadsheet turn into spaghetti. They slow down and become prone to crashing. Why does this happen? Because the people who create spreadsheets are not software developers. While experts in their fields, they lack training in creating software systems that scale well. Spreadsheets created by other people are also difficult to understand and modify because there are no design protocols.
Why Web Application Development Is The Better Choice
Data that's critical to your business belongs in a separate database. Data storage in one central location solves the problem of accidental and unauthorized data changes because data input can be limited to a few authorized individuals. Those without authorization can have access to the database for data use only. Still finer access control is achieved through the adoption of a user permission system.
Rather than increase the size and complexity of a spreadsheet by adding equations and macros to accommodate increasing business needs, web applications can be created that operate off the database. Different uses for the data such as reports, business intelligence, inventory control, mobile apps for field agents, customer service, and so forth can be realized as separate independent web applications. Whenever an additional use for the data is required, another application can be created without increasing the system's complexity. Therefore the system is scalable.
Web applications are universally accessible to all authorized individuals with Internet access. Multiple user access doesn't entail duplicate spreadsheet distribution with its attendant version control headaches. Web applications can use multi-tenancy which allow individuals some customization of their instance of an application without affecting other users' instances of the same application. Multi-tenancy also allow a user to create and maintain a personalized database that is isolated from the personalized databases of other users.
Other web application features not possible with spreadsheets include having it email an alert when critical data reach a threshold level such as when inventory levels of a product or part are getting low. The functionality of web applications can also be augmented through their integration with third-party web services.
Spreadsheets are meant to be single user tools that allow you to analyze, view, and report data. However, when the spreadsheet itself becomes a vital company asset, it subjects your business to the dangers previously discussed. Spreadsheet reliance has proved costly to many businesses. Don't allow the same to happen to you. If you wish to transition away from spreadsheets and enjoy the benefits of web applications, contact us at Contensive.