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Why spreadsheets aren’t always best for business

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For the longest time, spreadsheets have been the go-to for entrepreneurs and start-ups. From financial reporting to payroll admin, there are likely pages and pages of densely populated cells and tables containing all the information you could ever need about the business and its functions.

These spreadsheets are useful in terms of information processing, or simple formulae, but once layers of complexity are added, they tend to become overly complicated.

Because spreadsheets are budget friendly and easily accessible, they have become a time-honoured solution to digital admin tasks in small and medium businesses (SMB). Once businesses start to expand or scale up, however, it is important to consider if spreadsheets are still fit for purpose.

The traditional reliance on spreadsheets overlooks the options for alternatives which will help reduce human error and potentially save a company’s bottom line. A simple mistake can alter a spreadsheet’s outcomes, sum figures, or results, which could steer business decisions in the wrong direction. Considering this risk, it is essential that business owners investigate alternative options.

Manually doing spreadsheets and admin work is unnecessarily time-consuming. Sage research shows that, globally, companies lose 5.27% of total time to administrative tasks. In terms of administration costs, accounting takes up the largest cost by department, at 14.8%, followed by generating invoices (14.1%), processing invoices received (12.6%), and HR (12.4%).

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Maintaining spreadsheets, correcting data input errors, or keeping version control are all a drain on time, preventing employees from working on more value-added tasks. Automation would greatly reduce this wastage.

According to research by McKinsey & Company, it is anticipated that, by 2030, based on the currently available technologies, 45% of human-held jobs in the Middle East will be automated. These are mostly jobs that require repetitive processes. Automating these processes will not only boost staff efficacy but will also give staff more time to focus on aspects of the business that will benefit from the creativity of the human brain.

While they are user-friendly and feature-dense, spreadsheets lack the in-depth applications – such as data analysis and business intelligence reports – that modern businesses require. The catch phrase “data is the new oil” is as relevant to SMBs as it is to larger companies that need to analyse their data and use data-driven insights to make informed business decisions.

To be successful in the long term, SMBs need to focus on drawing up future-proof strategies. Automating a range of processes across businesses functions will go a long way in ensuring that, and it will also have a knock-on effect on the business, leading to a happier and performance-driven workforce.