Jonathan Bennett

Technology has come a long way since spreadsheets started being a thing in the 1970s. Unfortunately, many businesses haven't started taking advantage of them. Today, we are going to look at 4 tiers of improvement you could apply to you business processes, upgrading them from your 1970s spreadsheets, to 2020s latest tech, and considering if that is the right decision for you.

Go Online

The quickest and cheapest way to move your spreadsheets and processes online is using a tool like [Google Sheets](#). Google Sheets is essentially an Excel competitor, built by Google, which can run in your web browser, or on a mobile device.

Support for working with Excel documents is excellent for most features, but you are likely to run into problems if you are using advanced functionality within Excel such as macros.

Switching to Google Sheets can be as easy as uploading your existing spreadsheet, verifying that everything is still working as expected, and sharing access to the appropriate people and teams. Google Sheets is tied into your [Google GSuite](#) account, so if you are already using that, you are already ready to go.

If you are looking to take Google Sheets to the next level, it offers many advanced features for automation, centralized control, and keeping track of different versions of a document.

Resources

  • how to upload spreadsheet to gsuite
  • common sheets errors
  • managing sheets access

Modern Tools

Modern tools like [AirTable](#) have brought spreadsheets out the their 1970s origins and into the internet age. Instead of just manipulating numbers and charts, these tools are designed to bring content, data, analysis, and people together in one place.

[image showing spreadsheet with interesting cells, alternatively a calendar view of tasks]

AirTable starts out looking like a standard spreadsheet, but evolves when you click a couple buttons and turn your list of upcoming deliverables into a calendar view. You can easily transform how you see your data so that you can more easily make sense of what it actually means. Take your document to the next level by adding notifications, so that Bob from accounting proactively knows when somethings' been assigned to him, or an alert when the used hours of a task exceed 90% of budget.

Resources

  • getting started with AirTable etc
  • airtable is better than excel
  • best airtable templates

No/Low Code

No/Low code tools like [Bubble](#), Amazon's [HoneyCode](#), and Google's [AppSheet](#) are all solutions which try to give you as much of the flexibility of custom software as possible, while still being very approachable for less technical users. Using drag-and-drop tools to map out your business's data and processes, you can quickly and effectively see a positive return on investment.

No/low code tools are typically hosted, supported, and maintained by a platform vendor. This removes most of the IT burden from your business, replacing it with a monthly subscription cost to the vendor. Pricing is typically "per seat" pricing, meaning you are charged a fee, usually $5–$15, per user, per month.

No/low code tools work best when the problem you are looking to solve is "standard". By that I mean that the user interface follows normal platform conventions, and available data is well structured. As the problem you are trying to solve deviates from standards and requires less conventional solutions, these tools begin to lose their effectiveness. At some point, the limitations of the platform could require more effort to solve than a custom solution. Being mindful of this is a requirement of a successful project.

Resources

  • getting started with XYZ
  • the future of no/low code tools

Custom Solution

Custom solutions to you business problems can be one of the highest impact decisions you make. Solutions can vary greatly in scope, budget, and timeline, but ultimately a custom solution allows you to make the most informed decision about what is best for your business.

Custom solutions are often small, high return on investment projects. A well scoped solution will include the expected business benefits you will receive, increase productivity, reduced expenses, etc, and idea of the expected timeline, and a price. This allows you to evaluate if the solution is going to be a good return for your time and money.

Because a custom solution is, well custom, you know that it will be tailored to your needs, work well with your staff and customers, and give you the resources you need to move your business forward. Additionally, this solution becomes a proprietary resource within your business, an asset that makes your business more valuable and a differentiator from your competition.

Because of the highly variable nature of a custom solution, the expected costs also vary greatly, from as high as many millions of dollars, to as low as tens of thousands of dollars. What is consistent, is that return on investment should vastly exceed the cost of the solution.

Resources

  • benefits of custom software
  • custom software lifecycle
  • custom software as a business asset

Switch from a well know spreadsheet to another technology can be risky and uncomfortable, but if properly considered, and carefully managed, can provide enormous individual and business wide advantages.

This article briefly looked at the pros and cons of the tiers, but there is much that depends on your specific circumstances and needs. You can [schedule a free strategy call](#) with me if you would like to know what option is best for you.