Spreadsheets and Data Management: 5 Pitfalls and How To Avoid Them
Spreadsheets are a popular tool for storing and managing data. The broad accessibility can make a spreadsheet seem like an easy choice when starting a new project. But before you entrust your data to this legacy tool, it’s important to understand the challenges and risks that come with this strategy – before that ‘easy choice’ becomes a data headache and a risk to your business.
Spreadsheet pitfalls while trying to manage data the gamut of potentially business-crippling issues. From lacking critical capabilities to ensure data security and data integrity, to significant productivity losses due to manual data input, validation checks, and analysis.
The impact of underutilizing your data also can’t be underestimated. Data is the key source of business intelligence to inform your decision-making, uncover new opportunities, and gain insight to optimize operations and improve performance.
One example of overcoming spreadsheet pitfalls is from our customer RC Recycling, which helps construction companies comply with strict EPA guidelines by properly disposing of any waste resulting from cement mixing. Knack workflow automation replaced a broken system of spreadsheets and optimized overall company operations.
The spreadsheet listed all the RC Recycling projects, and each company’s information. Yet another spreadsheet stored details on the waste containers, including size and when they were last serviced.
Example of RC Recycling manual spreadsheet workflows.
Being aware of the pitfalls associated with spreadsheets, and knowing how to avoid them, will keep your business on a solid foundation.
1. Spreadsheets Lack Critical Data Security Features
Data is the lifeblood of your business. As more businesses and operations move online, and more employees work from remote locations on a variety of devices and networks, taking steps to strengthen your organization’s data security has never been more important – or complex.
When you put your trust in spreadsheets for data management, your business is vulnerable on all sides. Spreadsheets lack advanced (and necessary) security controls to keep your data safe. The risk runs the spectrum from limited password protection and a lack of encryption capabilities to the inability to assign role-based user access and only bare-bones audit features that leave too many blind spots to effectively track and manage changes.
You can avoid these data security pitfalls by trading your spreadsheet for a no-code database app. Cloud-based database apps are designed from the ground up with security in mind. They offer robust capabilities to keep your data safe and accurate. From encrypting data and passwords to powerful role-based user access permissions and history logs for full version control. And, cloud-based database apps are hosted on secure servers and regularly updated to protect against new security threats.
Ensuring the security of your data is Knack’s top commitment. Our no-code business app solutions make it easier than ever to build and customize apps with end-to-end security that meets your exact requirements and workflows. You can stop worrying about security and focus on running your business and streamlining your operation.
2. Spreadsheets Provide Limited Data Integration Capabilities
Spreadsheets tend to expand, multiply, and quickly become unwieldy. What started as a sheet to run simple calculations for an item like product inventory or to track a list of business contacts may have morphed into an assortment of spreadsheet tabs, files, and versions. It’s a common operational problem, especially as you scale up to track and manage more of your business details and results.
Because of limited data formatting and transformation capabilities, you can’t easily integrate the data living in your spreadsheets. You also can’t connect spreadsheets to other data sources or systems to get the full picture of your operation. In reality, spreadsheets are cumbersome data silos that block you from generating valuable business insights.
By moving to a cloud-based database app, you can avoid the data integration pitfall of spreadsheets. With Knack’s no-code database apps, which include access to the Knack API, you can connect your Knack data to any other service that has an API. Finally, you’ll have the business intelligence you need.
3. Error-Prone Spreadsheets Jeopardize Data Integrity
Even when following best practices, spreadsheets are naturally prone to errors and omissions. In fact, research shows that up to 90% of spreadsheets contain errors that affect results. Manual data entry makes it easy to introduce mistakes. This is especially true when dealing with complex formulas, a large amount of data, or multiple users. Each entry or manipulation of the data increases the odds of an error. And even small errors can significantly skew the analysis you depend on for decision-making.
The problem grows when you add up the productivity losses that come from trying to minimize the potential for errors. Users are forced to spend time manually checking and rechecking data and formulas when a spreadsheet is created or changed. Even with careful attention, errors still occur and can be difficult to detect and correct, especially with multiple users involved.
To avoid data errors, and gain rather than lose productivity, make the move from spreadsheets to no-code database apps. Unlike spreadsheets, database apps include critical quality controls, which improve the accuracy and reliability of your data. Tools include full history logs to audit, track and manage changes and protections like the ability to assign specific data types to each field so a user won’t inadvertently enter a phone number in a column meant for names.
Knack’s no-code apps provide a robust and reliable data management solution that spreadsheets can’t match. There’s even a library of free app templates to jumpstart your transition.
4. Spreadsheets Lack the Scalability To Keep Pace With Business Growth
Spreadsheets are problematic when it comes to scalability. As your business grows, your data grows and becomes more complex. More users are involved in entering and analyzing the data. Spreadsheets aren’t designed to handle large volumes of data and aren’t well-suited to working with complex data structures or relationships.
Data management via spreadsheet makes it increasingly difficult to keep the data secure or to analyze it and gain meaningful insights for your business. And over time, it continues to get worse as spreadsheet versions proliferate and changes get out of sync. Time is wasted trying to corral data back into one spreadsheet and performance is bogged down as data expands.
You don’t have to suffer from the scalability limitations of a spreadsheet. No-code business apps are designed to scale and have advanced capabilities for handling large volumes of data and users. They put you in charge, with robust and intuitive features for organizing your data and defining the connections and relationships that make sense for your data types and operational goals.
5. Spreadsheets have Limited Reporting and Analysis Capabilities
The full value of your data is wasted without reporting and analysis capabilities that turn data into powerful insights that can drive improved operational results and business growth.
With spreadsheets, you miss key takeaways your data could provide. Formulas and macros can generate specific answers but lack the data visualization and reporting capabilities needed to uncover the full story and bring it together in at-a-glance views. And building charts and graphs to display trends is cumbersome and time-consuming, especially since the data must be updated and refreshed to keep the views current. It’s significant work for minimal business intelligence.
Don’t track your data only to lose important and actionable insights.
Moving to no-code database apps for your business gives you the data visualization and analysis tools you need. Define real-time dashboards for key user roles and even automate reports and trigger actions based on parameters and thresholds you determine. For example, automatically generate a purchase order when inventory drops below a predefined threshold. Or, automate real-time sales and service assignments based on specific interactions with prospects or customers.
Using Knack’s no-code apps, you get flexible reporting options and intuitive dashboards to fuel data-driven decisions.
In today’s data-driven world, being able to generate business intelligence from data is a key competitive advantage – and beyond the capabilities of a spreadsheet. Choosing the right data management and data analysis tools provides insights into customer preferences, market trends, and operational efficiency, and generally enables more informed and strategic decision-making to keep goals and growth on track.
Learn more about how fast and easy it is to get started with Knack’s no-code apps.