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Top 5 Bad Uses of Microsoft Excel from a CFO for Hire’s Perspective






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While companies generally have a main operating system, they are frequently forced to augment their main systems by using other applications, frequently Microsoft Office and in particular Microsoft Excel.  Excel is a powerful and flexible spreadsheet application that can do almost any mathematical or logical calculation.  I hear many people say how “Excel is so powerful, and yet I only know 1% of what it can do.”

I’ve gotten to know Excel very well over the years…and the more I have gotten to know it, the more I believe it is actually the most overused application.  Don’t get me wrong, Excel has its place…a very important place.  But people try to use Excel in ways where other applications should be used instead.

Here are 5 examples of ways I see people using Excel where another tool should be used instead:

Use Such as Problem Instead Use
1.   Any spreadsheet where you will add data over time – like keeping a database Check registers, lists of employees Too much opportunity for human error to forget to enter an item Accounting software such as Quickbooks, or payroll software
2.   Project and task management Tasks and due dates Not enough built in capabilities A project / task management system such as Asana or Basecamp
3.   Spreadsheets with many totals Financial statements and budgets Too easy for a total not to calculate properly because references are not correct Budgeting software – such as Alight, reporting software such as Crystal or FRx, Business intelligence software such as Qlikview
4.   Complex and recurring accounting calculations Job costing, commission calculations Too easy to not perform calculations 100% consistently from one month to the next Access database – the complex calculations will be more robust and not as breakable
5.   Spreadsheets where more than one person can enter data Transaction Logs Difficult to keep track of who entered what, inconsistency between how people enter the same information Access database – will force data integrity and allow multiple people to access and edit the same data

So why don’t people use the proper solution? I see several reasons why:

  • because they don’t know about the best solution
  • because they only know 1% of Microsoft Excel, and thus don’t foresee the problems in using Microsoft Excel
  • fear of making a catastrophic error in their accounting or other software
  • fear / lack of desire to learn something new
  • not thinking outside the box and realizing there may be a better way

So come on…don’t settle for spreadsheets that you know won’t work.  Implement a solution that is built to last!

Check out the Top 5 GREAT uses for excel.


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