F#@% spreadsheets: it's not you, it's spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are a universal business tool used in just about every workplace because they are easy to learn and provide immeasurable value. But for the same reasons they are frequently overused and misused.

That’s why we’re saying F#@% spreadsheets and looking at alternative tools that are more reliable, allow for change control and will improve efficiencies in your business.

How did spreadsheets become a problem?

Spreadsheets are often the first or second application people learn in school or at work. They are fantastic for learning how to structure and manipulate data and information. They are cheap, easy to use, flexible and usually already installed on most computers.

Many businesses, especially when they’re going through the early stages, use spreadsheets for everything including invoicing, payroll, estimates and general project management, which is a great way to get started on a low budget or if you are time poor. But for every one of those tasks, at some point spreadsheets will begin to create more problems than they solve.


Spreadsheets make a great starting point.

People run into trouble when the business starts to grow, they’re trying to manage more data and the spreadsheet becomes an integral part of running their business. Before they realise it, the spreadsheet is being used to drive hundreds of thousands of dollars and holds really important information. In addition to this, the spreadsheet is being used by multiple people and passed around via a shared drive, meaning there is no accountability or change control.

The danger in this is when original versions of spreadsheets contain incorrect formulas and quotations which can significantly impact final estimations, figures and trends.

When should you move away from using spreadsheets?

There should come a time when every business reaches a point where they stop using spreadsheets. But how do you know when you are ready to move on?

You’ve outgrown using a spreadsheet when you consider the risk involved if you were to lose the information stored within it and the damage it could do to your business if there are errors in crucial calculations.

Also, if your business can afford to use a paid tool or bespoke software, then you should make the shift.

Alarm bells should be ringing if:

  • There are multiple people using and editing the same spreadsheet on a regular basis
  • There are secondary systems that are interacting with the spreadsheet
  • There are formulas in the spreadsheet to make calculations for prices, estimates or times
  • There are several tabs in a spreadsheet that might go unnoticed
  • Spreadsheets are being used for bullet listed points, long paragraphs of text in one column, artwork, animated art, DNA sequencing, city maps etc.

Alternatives to spreadsheets:

There are various online tools and programs that replace spreadsheets and work in far more efficient ways. Here are some that we recommend:

Custom/bespoke software – Ideal for stock control, ordering, or when you outgrow or need something in addition to existing software programs.

Trello – A simple list-making tool to structure information and help you get things done. It’s flexible because you can have text, images and annotations within it.

Harvest – This tool is great for timesheets, reports, invoices, logging expenses and managing budgets and estimates.

Toggl – Boost your productivity with this time tracking tool. Organise your time by projects or tags to make for quick and easy billing.

Xero – This online accounting software is ideal for businesses who want to combine their accounting and payroll into one.

Google apps for work – For professional email, shared calendars, video meetings and online storage. You can create, edit and share files on the go from your phone, laptop or tablet.

Pipedrive, Nutshell – Organise your teams, sell smarter and build customer relationships that last with these easy-to-use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools.

TELL US: Do you know of any other useful online tools or software that could replace spreadsheets?