Microsoft Excel’s place in history as a programme par excellence is assured. It’s easy to use, accessible and is a proven, cost-effective solution for keeping your data organised. Rely on it too much, though, and you could be missing out on a whole range of benefits – not least fewer manual processes and an end to laborious data entry.
Don’t get us wrong, Excel is a powerful tool for managing data, but as your business grows, it becomes less and less effective. The spreadsheet software was never intended to handle the demands of a modern business, and as a result, businesses often find themselves struggling to keep up with the volume and complexity of their data.
If you would be happy to never figure out a formula, input a shortcut or scroll through a sheet again, it could be a sign that you’ve become over-reliant on Excel. Because let’s not forget that while the software still has its uses for some applications, relying on it too much can be a problem – especially when you throw errors and duplicates into the mix.
That brings us to the thrust of today’s article: how ERP software can reduce your reliance on Excel. This is one of the lesser-known benefits of onboarding an ERP system, and one that could be music to your ears if you’ve grown weary of spreadsheets over the years.
Here, we’ll show you how ERP software can stop you from relying on Excel as your main form of crunching data and help you to improve business operations in the process.
The warning signs: When it might be time to find a better solution to Excel
Excel is great at formatting, organising and calculating data in spreadsheets. It does, however, depend on the accuracy of the data coming from your business system, manual data entry and processing, which, as we all know, are prone to errors and inconsistencies.
Despite this, thousands of businesspeople turn to Excel as part of their day-to-day operations, relying on the software for everything from stocktakes to business analysis. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but overreliance on the platform can cause issues, including:
- Employees spending more time collecting and organising data rather than putting it to use
- Data which is scattered around the company and stored on disparate systems or devices
- Mobile devices often only have limited access to necessary information
- A lack of real-time information
- A high degree of human errors which can be easily avoided
What are the weaknesses of Excel?
Greater risk of human error
Anyone who’s used Excel will know that it can be prone to human error, sometimes to a maddening degree. Often, this is down to the simple fact that Excel is being used by individuals who haven’t been sufficiently trained on the application. But to a larger degree, it’s down to Excel not being integrated into your centralised business system.
This creates a problem. If multiple departments need the same data, they’ll most probably create their own separate spreadsheets. Potentially, they may pull in data from different sources and make different assumptions around this data. This can cause all sorts of decision-making dilemmas. Alternatively, if multiple departments have to use the same spreadsheets, populating cells with unknown formulas attached can cause errors and confusion.
No centralised control
One of the big benefits of modern ERP software is its ability to provide a single, unified source of truth based on reliable data. In other words, there’s one version of information, which everyone can access in real-time.
It also facilitates the ability for different teams to manipulate the same data on-screen without requiring applications such as Excel to gain insights. Not only that but there’s greater assurance that the data contained is complete and up to date.
Using Excel is time-intensive compared to ERP software as it requires manual data entry and manipulation. This means that if you have a large amount of data, you may need to spend a significant amount of time organising and formatting the data before you can begin to analyse it.
In contrast, ERP software automates many business processes, including data entry, data management and analysis. This means that once you’ve set up your system and input the necessary data, the software can handle many tasks automatically, saving you time and reducing the risk of errors.
This includes the ability to view and manipulate key data on-screen, setting up your own on-screen list views (mini reports that can be further drilled into as needed), and even scheduling reports to be sent to you as and when you desire, and in your preferred format.
Lack of collaboration
All of that amending, saving, sharing and re-saving means that collaborating on an Excel spreadsheet can be troublesome, even if you’re working from a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office. Freezing is relatively common, especially when several different people are trying to access a spreadsheet at the same time.
Outdated data insights
Unless you have an ERP system that offers direct links to Microsoft Excel, your data won’t automatically update. For this to happen, an employee will need to make the necessary changes. It’s often the case that data can be lost or duplicated in this instance.
It’s not scalable
Excel is designed for individual use or for small teams, and it may become more difficult to manage and analyse data as the size and complexity of the data increases. ERP software, on the other hand, is designed to handle large volumes of data and can be easily scaled up as your business grows.
Reducing your reliance on Excel with ERP software
At Intact, we encounter many new customers who rely heavily on Excel, even if they have an existing ERP system in place. This may sound counterintuitive, but due to the limitations of legacy systems, it remains a relatively common practice.
Upon seeing the capabilities of Intact iQ, however, these same customers have gone on to greatly reduce their reliance on Excel. This is largely due to Intact iQ’s Excel-like on-screen reporting capabilities.
What’s more, screens can be used for reports by setting up a list view. This keeps all your key information, such as daily sales invoices, in one place. With this information to hand, your day-to-day efficiency and time-saving abilities receive a huge boost.
Excel reports, by comparison, are time-intensive and cumbersome. They also lack the same degree of freedom with which you to manipulate your data to create mini reports right there on screen. Essentially, through a system like iQ, you won’t miss out on information and opportunities which are crucial to your operations.
We understand however that for many businesses, Excel remains a cornerstone platform that can be highly beneficial for some applications. But if you want to get to a position where you’re relying on the software less and less, having the right ERP system in place can be a huge step towards making that happen.
If you’re still sceptical about using ERP alongside your existing Excel uses, then consider the following bottom-line benefits it can create, such as:
- Improved business knowledge and insights through real-time data
- Reduced operational costs through simplified operations
- Greater efficiency as a result of a more streamlined user experience
- Greater synchronicity across back office and front office infrastructure in terms of feel and appearance. This unified experience can also lead to greater user adoption
- System integration that leads to reduced management and operational costs
What’s more, many ERP systems – including Intact iQ – feature an Excel-like design, which makes for an intuitive feel for those who have become familiar with Excel over time. In fact, our Intact iQ Excel Connector means you can seamlessly connect your new ERP system with your Excel files.
Commenting on the similarities between Excel and iQ, Tyron Dawson, Financial Controller at Tilestyle, said: “Intact iQ is very Excel-like. You’re able to sort columns, drop columns, replace columns. You can apply filters to customise the filters as well as placing conditions upon our reports and that to me is much more intuitive than any system I have ever come across.”
Looking for ERP software that can do all of the above – and more? Intact iQ delivers a future-proof ERP solution to all your business needs, no matter what they are. For more information head to our dedicated page or get in touch with us today.