Fieldman Blog

5 Signs Utility Vendors Need to Move Out of Excel into Management Software

Best Practices
Utility Vendors Excel Management Software Fieldman
Excel spreadsheet software was one of the best inventions in the IT world. Today, there are over 750 million users. It is a simple, universal, convenient go-to software, and since 1987 Excel has been used in every office worldwide by employees with a range of responsibilities. It has a robust ability to manage many tasks, from planning to reporting, and is widely used for data analysis and projects. 

However, using Excel comes with some consequences, including challenges scaling to a multi-user model, hidden mistakes in formulas, security issues, and many more. According to Market Watch, up to 88% of spreadsheets contain errors that may affect business profitability. Excel can be replaced by efficient platforms and more advanced software solutions that have entered the market in the past decade. These solutions were built to take on the burden of creating schedule and plan templates from employees, allowing them to focus on their primary responsibilities. 

When is it time to switch from familiar Excel to new management software? When should a utility vendor consider moving from creating tasks for field workers in a spreadsheet to a new platform? Our clients often ask us these questions, so below, we list the most significant indicators. 

1 When project requirements are too complex
Projects are becoming more advanced, and spreadsheet formulas developed for earlier projects might not solve new complex tasks. Creating and applying new formulas in Excel might be challenging because of the multi-level and intricate nature of the workflow. Employees will spend their working hours figuring out how to upgrade an existing spreadsheet or searching for hidden formula errors. Even if adding new formulas is successful, managing them will be incredibly demanding. As a result, the number of errors and mistakes will increase, leading to missed deadlines and lost profitability.

2 When most users work remotely
Often, smaller vendors pay little attention to authentication processes and security protocols. Instead, employees repeatedly log in from their personal accounts, putting projects at high risk. If something goes wrong, there will be a limited number of options to fix it, not to mention a potentially high investment. Such carelessness can cause project delays and unplanned emergency IT outgoings that would add up to much more than paying for a management platform subscription.

Today, data exchange is all about security. When users work from a single office, there is very little chance that hackers could intervene and harm data. But for users connecting from various locations and different devices, security protocols for data protection must be established. This means that all users sharing one spreadsheet must be constantly authenticated. This adds another layer of complexity and, more significantly, additional user management and support. All these processes require the involvement of IT technicians, but these are also the exact steps needed to create a management platform. Why should a company spend time and resources building a spreadsheet-style platform in-house when professional management platforms are available on the market? 

3 When role-based access is required
Different workers need different views of data. Supervisors typically get access to all users to manage a project, while a field worker needs simple data entry. Spreadsheets can allow access to be blocked to a specific row(s) or column(s), but it will look the same for all users. IT gurus can create restricted views in Excel, but this often leads to cascading problems in keeping track of changes and version control. Management platforms can provide a different look for a host of different employees without any additional coding. 

4 When more than ten users are working with a spreadsheet 
The number of users is a useful indicator. The goal of any software solution is to always have up-to-date information. To achieve this, all workers must update the system in real-time. Adding a new user significantly increases the chance of locking the file for other users, thus making real-time updates more troublesome. There might be multiple versions of the same document floating around, and keeping track of changes is a significant burden. 

5 When input data validation is a must
Spreadsheets are designed for quick and easy data entry. Data input containing errors, whether in the field or from another location, can break reports and spreadsheet formulas. There is no easy way to validate data input when a user is on the move or disconnected from the network. To avoid "garbage in, garbage out," using a system capable of validating input data will save many hours in the field and back-office investigating and fixing the problem.

If your team has experienced any of the above problems, move on from your dependence on Excel. Management software like Fieldman can help any organization evolve from messy spreadsheets and streamline their project management process. Once your team experiences the capabilities that new platforms can deliver, we can assure you there will be no looking back!