5 Things You Can't Do With Spreadsheets

There are lots of different things you can do with a spreadsheet: make a budget, track expenses, create an address book, and so on. However, even a tool as versatile as Excel has its limitations. Below are five things you can't do with a spreadsheet. 

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1. Collect data on the go

Spreadsheets aren’t designed to work on a small screen. If you've ever tried to open a spreadsheet on your smartphone, then you know exactly what we're talking about. Those cells are just too tiny to manipulate on a mobile device. Instead, you’re forced to lug around your laptop or collect the information on a clipboard and enter it into Excel later. Today's workforce needs tools that allow them to work from anywhere, on any device. Excel simply isn't up to the task.

2. Get alerts and reminders

A lot of companies are using excel to track tasks and due dates. Usually they end up with something that looks like this:

task record spreadsheet

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with this system. First off, you have to update it manually. If someone forgets to change the status of a task, it might look like everything is on track even though you’re actually behind schedule. In addition, Excel doesn't tell you when a due date is coming up, or when a deadline is overlooked. Often these issues are only discovered much later during the reporting period, resulting in significant headaches and even fines or penalties. 

Whichever system you use to keep track of business activities should have the ability to send alerts and notifications based on conditions you set. That’s especially true when dealing with regulatory compliance rather than just project management.

3. Analyze data efficiently

Charts, tables, and graphs are a useful way to visualize trends and patterns in your data. While Excel does have the functionality to create simple graphics, it can be time-consuming — especially if you need to consolidate data from different sheets or workbooks. What’s more, you can't drill down on these charts for more detail so you're stuck with surface-level information.

If you need to analyze your data, you're better off using a software tool that includes data dashboards. Dashboards pull in all of your important metrics and KPIs automatically, often in real-time, and display them in helpful visualizations. And, you can click on the charts in your dashboards to dig deeper into the data in order to answer business questions. 

EHS data dashboard view

4. Prepare reports quickly

Ah, reporting. Anyone who’s ever had to create a report from data in Excel knows that it’s a huge time suck. It can take days or weeks to manually compile all the information you need from different workbooks and put it in the right format. By the time your report is created, the information is already out of date and you have to start all over again. 

If your team is spending a lot of time preparing reports, you're much better using a software system that's designed for that purpose. It will save you from having to manually prepare reports, which will free you up to focus on other tasks. Just think of all the things you could do with the time saved!

5. Maintain an audit trail

With spreadsheets, anyone can easily go in and change or save over the information. Although Excel does save some ability to track changes, it doesn't track every change to a spreadsheet. And, there are ways to get around this. 

For this reason among others, the track changes feature doesn't meet the requirements for a 21 CFR audit trail for electronic records. In the event of an audit, a software system that includes version control will ensure your bases are covered. 

A modern alternative to spreadsheets

Excel is certainly a useful tool, but there are some areas where it just can’t keep up. Spreadsheets don't work on mobile or send you alerts. It's hard to analyze and report on data in spreadsheets. And, they don't maintain an audit trail. Only a modern software system can do all these things at the speed and scale necessary for today's business environment.

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