Why Spreadsheets Could Be Losing Your Business Money

Why Spreadsheets Could Be Losing Your Business Money

First up, let’s get one thing straight – spreadsheets are useful. Really useful. So, why the critique?

Spreadsheets may be the go-to tool for collecting and organising data, but in business it’s important to understand where the limitations are. It’s not a case of spreadsheets being bad, but it’s a well-known fact that businesses outgrow them.

There is a tipping point in business when spreadsheets will start to lose you money. Here’s why.

Spreadsheets aren’t industry-specific

Most businesses start out using spreadsheets – not just in the building services sector, in most other sectors too. After all, why spend money on more expensive solutions when spreadsheets tick most of the boxes?

For one-man bands and micro businesses, spreadsheets are, in fact, a great back-office tool. Everyone is used to using them – they are familiar. And it’s a relatively low-cost software solution for storing all sorts of data, from job costings and cashflow to budgets. Spreadsheets also enable you to create formulae to manipulate data, making them a useful forecasting and planning tool. They may not cover off everything, but weighing up the pros and cons, in the early days of a business, they are more than good enough.

But herein lies the first issue with spreadsheets – they aren’t an industry-specific tool. What usually happens in a small business as it grows is that it sets up more spreadsheets to deal with specific problems. Before long, a business may have several sets of spreadsheets for managing different aspects of the business, such as timesheets, accounts, job sheets, scheduling and so on. It’s inefficient, there’s more chance for ‘inputting’ or ‘cut-and-paste’ mistakes, and a lot of information is duplicated.

Also, data is regularly extracted from spreadsheets and analysed to inform business decision making. But pertinent information is easily ignored (or may not be recorded at all). Industry-specific software, on the other hand, has been developed with a deep understanding of business needs.

The fact is spreadsheets don’t quite do everything you need them to. Take accounting as an example. Many business owners start out doing their accounts in a spreadsheet. But quite soon, as the business grows, it becomes clear that spreadsheets aren’t sophisticated enough and that some sort of accounting system is vital.

Solutions for managing workflow processes must also evolve to maintain efficiencies. We’re certainly not consigning spreadsheets to Room 101, just simply saying, there’s a tipping point at which they often become less useful to a business. There will come a point when you are shoehorning data into spreadsheets, but they’re not quite delivering what you need them to for your business.

How intuitive are spreadsheets? Is your scheduling as slick as it could be?

Using Excel to schedule work for engineers is a hack. It can be done – but it’s not what Excel was designed for. Essentially, it means a greater potential for scheduling errors. Spreadsheets are reliant on the information that is put into them. A spreadsheet alone can’t work out the most effective use of specific site engineers based on where they are travelling to. That information would need to be calculated by the person doing the data entry – and this involves more work.

Is a spreadsheet going to identify scheduling conflicts? Without some out-there macros and formulae, No.

Will it be able to send out jobs to engineers with a postcode they can click-on to get directions? No.

If an SLA-critical reactive job comes up, is it possible to rejig schedules and send that out to appropriate site engineers from Excel? No.

The reason Excel can’t deliver these things is because it’s not what it’s designed for. Spreadsheets aren’t that sophisticated or intuitive.

With job scheduling software, there are no scheduling conflicts, engineers get jobs matched to their expertise and location and even according to what parts they have on board. And jobs can be scheduled in an instant as soon as they come in. Jobs can also be grouped by geographical area and customer. Jobs are scheduled appropriately to improve workflow efficiency.

Intuitive features of scheduling software include a mobile engineer app – this means jobs can be deployed to engineers in real-time, with notifications going to their smartphone. For SLA-critical jobs, engineers are alerted immediately – a vital component of customer service excellence. And engineers get maximum information at their finger-tips – this just isn’t possible with spreadsheets.

The cost of human error

One incorrect assumption made by many when using spreadsheets is that the downsides are worth it because it saves money. It’s an easy mistake to make – after all, Excel is a powerful program and in the right hands it is easy to create very powerful workbooks and formulae to calculate quotes, invoices and much more.

Unhappy looking man in an office

And problems begin when you need to move that data. Data might be up to date in the back office, but how long does it take to reach those in the field? If you are keeping track of inventory on Excel, how long will it take for field engineers to get the latest inventory on their mobile devices? And is the information correct? Human error is unavoidable when dealing with spreadsheets. And what about security? How secure is that data?

In an industry where an engineer might need to make SLA-critical decisions on the fly, based on how available stock is, there is no way Excel will be able to help them make that decision. Engineers may have to phone into the office and wait for a call back – it simply doesn’t make sense for productivity.

In addition, for many smaller service-industry companies, cash-flow is of absolute importance. Any delay between job completion and invoicing is critical. A business cannot afford for there to be any issues or delay when transferring data from Excel to accounting software. Normally, data can be transferred across via a text or CSV file. But the data in Excel has all been inputted manually – it’s another element of human error to be aware of.

Human processing of data is also time consuming! Spreadsheets require an impressive amount of human time to create, maintain and to share data from. That is another business cost!

Addicted to Excel? It could be time to let go

Joblogic’s all-in-one management solution is designed to prevent the many issues encompassed by using spreadsheets alone. You can plan, manage and optimise your business operation in a single system with Joblogic, including API integration with your accounts system. 

And because data inputted into Joblogic is stored in the cloud, it’s available to engineers via their smartphones in real-time, enabling them to know their calendar and stock information immediately. Joblogic allows you to invoice directly from job sheets, so important billing data doesn’t fall between the cracks.

If you’re addicted to Excel, it could be time to let go. At Joblogic we help businesses optimise productivity and grow, with a streamlined system that saves you time and money. Book a free demo today to find out more.

Share this on: