3 Things Your Small Business Shouldn’t be Tracking in Excel Anymore

November 22, 2017


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When Microsoft Excel was first released, it became an essential for big businesses and helped many companies move quickly into the digital age.

In a matter of years, businesses went from scribbling their data on countless bits of paper, to inputting it into organized digital documents on their PC, which were easy to edit and share.

Now, however, many forward thinking companies are ditching Excel in favour of newer, more advanced software. Thanks to an explosion in cloud-based, Software as a service (SAAS) software, the options are greater and more sophisticated than ever, making Excel look rudimentary for many tasks.

With these three tasks in particular, you should ditch Excel and leap into the 21st century, running your business more efficiently and making more time for other business activities.

1) Accounting

Accounting is a long, laborious task. But by swapping up Excel for dedicated accounting software you will see the following improvements:


Of the number of problems that accounting on Excel brings, perhaps the biggest is the constant need for backups. If you face a technical issue and have not made a recent backup, you could lose everything. Not only is reconstructing this data a huge amount of work, it could be legally problematic as you never know when you will need these important details to hand.

Even if you do make regular backups, if you do not test them regularly (many do not), you could face a similar end result. While 57% of IT managers make backups, 75% were not able to restore all of their lost data.

So rule out any such issues, forget fretting about whether auto-save is turned or or not, and use cloud based accounting software which will always be backed up and up to date.

The Health of Your Business

After the painstaking process of making all your spreadsheets and reports, do you know how you can use them to gain insights into the health of your business? You can’t.

Unlike many cloud software packages, Excel does not have built in functions to analyse the health of your business.

Ease of Access/Collaboration

When sharing spreadsheets in Excel, you will have to protect worksheets and potentially share passwords to unlock a sheet.

You will probably be worried that someone could be accessing an old copy or overwriting the precious master file. The issue is that Excel was released in 1987 and built for a office with retro desktop PCs connected to the wall with an ethernet cable. It was not developed for remote teams or the co-working via the internet that we see today. Excel has since seen various updates and now features in Office 365 online, but online functionality is not at the core of the product’s design.

Thankfully, for modern software, it often is, allowing seamless sharing and editing with various users simultaneous. Security settings also let you tailor access for each individuals.
There are reasonably priced software solutions that address all of the above solutions, such as free SAAS accounting tool Waveapp and award winning SAAS accounting tool Freshbooks which offers monthly plans for under $50 and a 30 day free trial.

2) Managing your customer information and relations

Excel was not made for managing customer relations! For the following reasons you should switch up your spreadsheets for a dedicated CRM software:

Handling customer relations.

Excel does a good job at keeping lists, crunching numbers, creating simple graphs, etc.; these are all purposes it was designed for. Managing customer relations, however, is a purpose that Excel was never intended to handle.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, on the other hand, are designed specifically to support the various activities that customer relations entail: customer interactions, engagement, sales, support, and success. They will not only keep track of your customer relations, they will make them more efficient and improve the possibility of analysing them later on.

Central customer relations database

The benefits of smooth information flow are countless as sharing information is critical to all business operations. Small companies companies are estimated to lose an average of $420,000 per year due to poor communication.

In addition to the financial impact – due to how information gaps affect your employees’ performance – your customers could notice this too.

Every employee should know – or be able to find out – where there customer is at in the business cycle. Customers expect this too. Using a CRM is great way to keep a central hub so all your employees are in the loop and customers feel they are being cared for.


Standardization means ensuring that all employees conform to the same standards when completing work and following business processes.Small companies may think that their size means they can get away with non-standardization, but small companies grow quickly, and with them grows the issue of non-standardization. The average startup is estimated to grow 120%, 83% and 60%, in the first, second and third year respectively.

As they grow the team becomes more loosely connected and they may also be separated by distance if you expand overseas or permit employees to work remotely.

To counter this you should use one system that records information in a standardized manner. This means that not only is everyone on the same page, but also that work is easier to understand and analyse by management teams.


Imagine someone tapping you on the shoulder every time a customer interaction occurred. This is of course an exaggeration of what happens in the workplace, but illustrates how inefficient communication can be if everyone is not in the loop and information is not filtered carefully.

With CRM software, this process is automatic and you can tailor which information should be sent to each individual, filtering the relevant from the needlessly distracting and saving your team valuable time.

For software aimed specifically at sales, take a look at Another option is SugarCRM a more general purpose, award winning CRM program. Both offer free trials. For more CRM solutions take a look at this blog post.

3) Managing Inventory

Excel is clumsy, and humans can be too. So managing masses of inventory data in Excel will ultimately lead to mistakes. Inventory management software helps cut down this risk:

Reduce the chance of human error

The more manual a process is, the more likely human error is to occur. With large teams punching numbers and formulas manually into Excel spreadsheets, this is inevitable.

With inventory management software you can minimise the chance of such errors by automating certain processes. This can include solutions such as barcoding and mobile technology.

Avoid the ‘snowball effect’

You have a giant spreadsheet filled with important numbers, but you put it one wrong thanks to a typo. This then means the whole sheet could be messed up thanks to formulas that link this figure to others. It could also even deem other sheets that are linked to this sheet inaccurate.

Sometimes this can go on for a long time before being noticed with a simple typo eventually becoming a costly mistake. Again, although human error is impossible to avoid, automation helps reduce such a risk.

Swapping complex formulas for simplicity

Unless you remember everything from your school IT classes or evening college sessions, it is unlikely you are an Excel formula wizard. It is a headache for many and also contributes to mistakes.

Choose a software that makes this simpler by eliminating the need for manual formulas with automatic functions. This means not only less mistakes, but also less training for employees.

Inflow Inventory, for example, allows you to track orders, control stock and manage your business all from one platform. Managing all your paperwork together – such as invoices, purchase orders and sales orders – means there is no double entry (if you’re using excel you’ll have to update inventory in an excel sheet and then still make a separate invoice or purchase order).

Fishbowl from QuickBooks is another option for efficient managing of manufacturing and warehouse inventory.

Excel has become the ‘go to software’ for a variety of uses that it is poorly equipped for, and it shouldn’t be. When it comes to areas such as accounting, customer relations, and inventory, you should choose a dedicated software solution instead. By ditching the outdated trend of ‘Excel for everything’, you can greatly improve business efficiency, better analyse your business, and reduce the risk of costly mishaps.


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Louis Leung

Louis Leung is the President and Co-founder of inFlow Inventory, the world's most-used inventory software for small businesses.


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