“Many have used spreadsheets and survived. But there is a better way to thrive…with a custom app.”

Excel spreadsheets are great. They can perform a lot of useful tasks for your business like general purpose number crunching, excel_filetracking customer contacts/information, making custom invoices, and producing charts. But many businesses push spreadsheets to their limits. They come to rely on Excel for far more than it was ever designed to do. We call this “Excel abuse” and it’s a big business problem.

We know companies that employ people whose sole job is to format and maintain Excel spreadsheets. They spend hours poring over information copying and pasting between workbooks to assemble reports and summarize information. They do this repeatedly month after month wasting thousands of hours of valuable time. We know companies that have struggled with the accidental deletion of a cell in the middle of a spreadsheet that destroyed the integrity of their data. We know companies that manage hundreds of Excel worksheets that are difficult to summarize and are not easily sharable. Various versions of these worksheets get emailed around and you don’t even know which one is the most up-to-date.

Smart companies realize they can be more profitable with a more focused off-the-shelf application that automates this work for them. So they spend a lot of money on an application that they hope will end the struggle with Excel. Often, this new solution still doesn’t fully fit their business process or is too difficult for their people to use and fit into their current work environment.

What happens then? Users will export the information from this new application and use Excel again to format reports and manage the information outside of the application. Excel ends up filling in the gaps anyways!  Why does this happen? Because people need to get their work done and Excel is the only tool readily available to them that even comes close to being usable and capable of solving part of the problem.

But it can be terribly inefficient and tedious. What is the fundamental problem? Excel is not a real database or application development tool! Although you can do database like things in Excel, Excel is NOT a database.

It goes back to the old adage “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” If your people only have Excel available, they’ll never solve the problems in a new or more effective way that would actually gain significant productivity. Ultimately, you need to use each application for its best purpose to get the job done. Excel has its place, but it doesn’t work when:

  • You need to track a lot of information quickly. – Excel can’t handle thousands and thousands of items effectively. Excel is limited to 65,536 rows (records) and 256 columns (fields).
  • You require secured information – Excel can’t provide granular user role level access to information in the spreadsheet. It’s fairly easy to unlock even a password protected Excel worksheet if you know how.
  • You want to share the information and collaborate on editing it – Excel can’t easily share a spreadsheet file. Individual items can’t be locked as in use while other people actively edit the information.
  • You need to access the information easily on a mobile device. – Excel can’t easily transfer to a tablet or smartphone. Entering and editing data in a standard spreadsheet format is less practical in an iOS or Android environment.
  • You want to connect your information to existing other data sources or applications and the web to avoid double data entry. – Excel can’t do that effectively.

All of this can be remedied when you use FileMaker. FileMaker is a custom rapid application development and databasefilemaker_app_icon tool. You can use FileMaker to build the software solution that works exactly the way you need it to for your business. Often we can use Excel spreadsheets as the prototypes for a FileMaker solution.

Expect to make a significant investment in your solution that will also pay off with significant ROI (or return on that investment) over time. You can build a technology solution that is a unique company asset and competitive advantage that will continue to propel your business toward success.

Working with an experienced FileMaker developer is different than any other way of creating custom software. You might arrange a work session together with a dedicated FileMaker developer and actually build portions of functional code together. It won’t require a huge team of software developers. It will be a more nimble and agile process of working together to get exactly what you need. Sure, more complex functionality needs to be taken offline…but this kind of immediate progress doesn’t happen often with any other tool except for FileMaker. Contact us for more information and end Excel abuse today. You’ll be glad you did. Your business will be more effective, productive, and profitable.

Tim Cimbura – CEO and Software Engineer

Tim is an expert in creating custom business solutions that make businesses more effective, productive, and profitable. He specializes in rapid application development with FileMaker (certified in all versions) for macOS, Windows, iPad/iPhone and web app integration with WordPress. He also knows Apple technology inside and out.