Spreadsheets to Software: Step 1 – Identify the Problem

When you’re trying to figure out if you need a software solution, the first step is to identify your problem and how big your problem really is. Being honest when evaluating your problem and the impact to your business is going to tell you if it’s worth the cost and time to hire a team or developer to build a solution.

Here are a few questions you can get you started:

How many spreadsheets or tabs do you really have? (Be honest!)

Let’s say you get one spreadsheet from a system export, another from your accountant, another from a client, and then you put information from all of those into a template you like to use…See where I’m going here? (And just because you are copying information from one tab to another in the same spreadsheet doesn’t mean you’re in the clear here.)

Having information in multiple places and copying from one to another increases your risk of having errors and issues when copying and pasting (although I’m sure you’re awesome at CTRL-C and CTRL-V!). Remember when you copied the wrong thing and it messed everything up when you pasted it into your template…yeah, let’s not re-live that again. A software solution is designed to house and maintain your data so that you don’t have to.

How much information is in the spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets can contain a lot of data. People don’t say that Excel is the world’s most used database for nothing. However, Excel is limited in functionality. Yes it can perform some pretty cool things – I’ve seen some really cool pivot tables and advanced functions in Excel (click a button and it performs advanced formulas and data migrations, anyone? Pretty darn cool).

But, Excel can only do so much. There comes a point where your needs go beyond the most used solution and you need something more to grow your business. On top of that, do you have the skills to code those advanced functions? Don’t feel bad because I sure don’t (and yes, it’s coding even in Excel). That’s why there are some pretty cool people out there to do it for us.

How long is it taking you, really?

Just because it works doesn’t mean that it’s efficient. Your time is valuable. Spending hours upon hours copying data from one spreadsheet to another or troubleshooting your Excel formula just isn’t worth it. There comes a point where the hours you spend on your inefficient solutions would more than pay for an elegant, simple software solution.

Can you see yourself doing this long term?

How much longer do want to waste your time copying and pasting and troubleshooting formulas? Another day? Month? Year? (How about not another second?). Just because you’re content with doing it today doesn’t mean you’ll be okay with doing it a year from now. Think about how long your processes take you on a daily or weekly basis and think about that time spent over the next year or even the next 5 years. If the idea of that time spent in Excel doesn’t sit well with you, then maybe you need a software solution.

Give yourself some time to really think through the answers to these questions. The answers may surprise you and will guide you to the best decision for your business.

If you want more business tips, check out our post: Identify Your Target Customer in These Four Steps