The Excel Alternative: How to Tell When You Need a Dashboard
There’s no doubt about it: Microsoft Excel is a remarkable piece of software. Since 1985, Microsoft Excel has become the most used business application in the world. It is the ultimate spreadsheet software used by various individuals and businesses for their data analysis.
Inexperienced Excel users can create simple spreadsheets, while Excel wizards can program and script dashboards. Such ease and popularity have made it the number one BI tool on the market.
However, when reporting data for more giant corporations and businesses, an Excel dashboard loses its dominance.
A single Excel spreadsheet can’t handle the size and frequency of information that larger companies require regularly. Worse yet, Excel spreadsheets can’t convey accurate and up-to-date data.
A dashboard should have all the necessary data for the business to function, and sometimes, Microsoft Excel doesn’t cut it.
Simply put, the larger the company, the more cumbersome and ineffective Excel becomes.
Compare Excel to your first car or home. Both can handle a single driver or occupant but grow your family, and the limitations become apparent.
A small car isn’t large or safe enough for children, and a small home won’t comfortably fit a big family. Excel is similar because it gets the job done for small, experienced teams, but most businesses will outgrow its usefulness reasonably quickly.
A lot of people researching dashboard and BI software are interested in transitioning away from Excel. Perhaps Excel is working for you, but you’ve heard the buzz about dashboards and are curious about what they can do for you that Excel can’t.
Look no further: this guide will help you determine when Excel is no longer enough. A Google sheet is also counted.
First, let’s look at the top five reasons why using Excel as your primary BI solution can hinder your business operations. This can be a good contender for an Excel alternative.
This is the Excel alternative: how to tell when you need a dashboard.
Data needs to be entered manually.
Anyone familiar with Excel likely knows the painstaking process of creating spreadsheets, graphs, tables, and even dashboards within an Excel workbook.
Excel workbooks that contain multiple sheets and tons of data were made from scratch. One can find an Excel file very useful for this task alone.
Yes, Excel produces sums and totals when it’s programmed to, but it can’t automate the inclusion or generation of new information from a database. The software requires an operator.
Human errors are more likely.
Copying and pasting a tremendous amount of data only exacerbates the chance that mistakes will slip through the cracks. Since Excel requires a person to enter their data manually, this leads to more human errors. A lookup formula just won’t cut it if complicated processes are required.
Data isn’t real-time.
The data in an Excel spreadsheet is always old. For Excel to provide real-time data, an experienced developer needs to build scripts and macros that enable Excel to pull data directly from a database. This is ineffective, however, given that dashboards and reporting software are designed around database integration.
Collaborating is difficult
Sharing and collaborating on an Excel spreadsheet is challenging. While the cloud has made it slightly easier for multiple users to make alterations to a single spreadsheet, it’s still challenging to manage the most up-to-date version when everyone is looking at a different report. This con can also put the visualization into question since today’s latest update might not be applicable for tomorrow.
No security options
Anyone with access to an Excel spreadsheet can change the data and the underlying data within it. There’s no way to secure the data beyond applying a built-in spreadsheet password, and even this is a relatively simple security measure to bypass.
When do you need an Excel alternative?
How can you recognize the signs and symptoms of an Excel dashboard that’s on its last leg? Besides avoiding the aforementioned negative aspects of Excel, businesses should keep an eye on the following tell-tale signs. Chances are, it’s time to take the plunge and migrate away from Excel.
You rely on an Excel Wizard.
Relying on one experienced employee to run Excel reports is a considerable risk. Not only does this limit the productivity of an employee, but if they’re sick or suddenly quit, then the business is suddenly missing its only means of reporting.
Dashboards enable every employee to be a BI expert. Each user has a secure account that they can use to collaborate on dashboards. In essence, a dashboard gives your entire organization the power to create reports and build dashboards.
You need relevant data.
The nature of Excel prevents it from reporting up-to-date data. Although a lag in data reflection might be minimal, those figures matter when dealing with time-sensitive decisions.
Excel is no longer beneficial if you want to watch your data change and react in real-time. Visualization will also look better since all data that are needed can be found easily.
You want better security.
As mentioned earlier, Excel spreadsheets aren’t secure. Classified information in a spreadsheet can be obtained and altered easily by anyone. Using Excel as a primary BI solution, you risk the chance of multiple people accessing crucial data.
Dashboard data is either secured by the BI vendor if hosted on their servers (cloud-based) or by your organization if hosted on your servers (on-premise). Using a dashboard lets you choose whether you want a professional vendor to protect your sensitive information or secure the data yourself.
You want to save time.
Dashboards are time-savers and productivity boosters. Not only can users collaborate on the same data together from a central hub, but Contributors can share reports and dashboards instantly to managers and stakeholders.
Reports can be scheduled and automated, so you receive data regularly. Specific BI software can be used with little to no training, as well.
It will also help if individuals can access them through an app where everyone can access anytime and anywhere.
Next up: How Much Do Dashboards Cost?
Business dashboards can help your organization gain valuable insights, improve processes and save money. But knowing how much you should spend on software can be confusing.
In this article, we look at the average cost of business intelligence software. We also look at any hidden fees you should be aware of, such as training new users, adding licenses, and customizing your new dashboard.