Excel: is it a good or a bad thing?

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If I had a spreadsheet on my computer, it looked like I was busy“.
Nate Silver

Excel, one of the most ubiquitous softwares on the planet, it helps to manage lists, numbers, data, formulas, charts, analytics and external integrations with great flexibility and it’s also easy to use. Why is it so often criticized? Is it good or bad?

The truth is that Excel is a great product that is often misunderstood and misused.

Excel is one of the greatest time savers that exists and at the same time it is probably the biggest time waster in the world and a big source of errors and other problems for business.

Something has to be understood: Excel is a tool! Maybe it is the best tool ever created, but it will never replace a well designed system because it is just a tool and not a system.

The problem with Excel is that people solve problems with it and many times they wrongly consider the job done and indefinitely keep using spreadsheets to do repetitive work. People proudly consider that they solved the problem and just can’t see the necessity of a system or even think that by having control of data and spreadsheets they can be considered more important.

Imagine a factory production line run by a bunch of competent people using the best tools that money can buy. It will work but it will be slow, expensive and error prone. This is analogous to a business run by great people using Excel spreadsheets.

Now picture a modern factory with a fully automated production line. It will be efficient, having a low cost to produce much more. This is what it’s like a business run with help of well designed systems, it will be very efficient because people will not be doing repetitive tasks that can be done in a much better way by machines. People will be free to do what humans do best: think, learn, plan, manage and create new value by means of innovation.

spreadsheets
Source: consider.biz

So Excel must be used only as a tool to solve exceptional, one time problems. If it is being used to do repetitive tasks this is a strong signal that some kind of system is needed. Let’s do not get in this trap. Action must be taken: we need to talk to our boss, IT team, CIO, CEO or whoever necessary to claim for a system or even code it by ourselves. We must do it soon, before it is too late to save our business.

Ricardo Olsen in-2c-14px, MEng. :: DSC Systems :: https://dscsys.com

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#excel #spreadsheets #systems #business #analytics

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