An end to Excel hell: From spreadsheet sprawl to streamlined efficiency

19th February 2024

Richard HigginBotham

by Richard Higginbotham

What does your tech say about you? With a sprinkle of innovation, it’s possible for organisations to change perceptions and experiences overnight – from slow and awkward, to agile and relevant.

Increasingly, organisations are viewed as an expression of the technology they use. Customers, employees and suppliers evaluate how brands look, feel and deliver on their promises via digital touch-points.

In theory, start-up businesses have a significant advantage as they begin with a clean slate. They get to pick from a host of gleaming new apps and cloud services to help them express themselves as agile and intuitive. But the reality is that they’re only as good as their ability to predict how their operations will evolve. It’s even more challenging for long-established organisations.

Over time, they too could accumulate a patchwork of systems and applications – often developed in different eras and by different teams – but lacking integration. Think boot-cut jeans combined with blazers and bandanas. The tech equivalent can have dire consequences.

Spreadsheet sprawl and approval hazards

Disconnects between applications force employees to turn to spreadsheets as a makeshift way to bridge the gap. Similarly, when approvals involve multiple stakeholders, email chains become the go-to method for routing documents and gathering signatures.

This leads to a cascade of issues that hinder productivity and increase risk. Here are seven pitfalls you might recognise:

  • Process failures and delays: Manual spreadsheet data entry, formula mistakes and version control issues can lead to poor and sluggish decision-making.
  • Missed opportunities: Teams may work in silos, unable to collaborate and share real-time information, which leads to operational inefficiencies and missed opportunities.
  • Accuracy issues: Because spreadsheets are decentralised, there’s a high risk of data duplication and contradictory information circulating within organisations.
  • Business continuity risks: Spreadsheets that manage processes can become complex beasts. Often built by enthusiastic amateurs in their own idiosyncratic style, they become difficult to maintain and support, creating single points of failure.
  • Approval bottlenecks: Urgent and business-critical decisions can get delayed as documents get lost in overflowing email inboxes, harming business agility.
  • Lack of transparency: Tracking email approvals and workflow becomes a nightmarish task, often resulting in confusion, disputes and a lack of accountability.
  • Compliance and privacy risks: Using emails for sensitive approval workflows can expose confidential information to security risks.

Breaking free with low-code

The malaise we’ve described can impact employees’ morale and frustrate customers. But it’s possible to find a modern alternative without spending a fortune.

Low-code development empowers developers — and their non-technical business colleagues — to create custom applications quickly, bridging the gap between legacy systems and today’s needs. Before long, you can expect to see five business benefits:

  • Rapid digitalisation: Spreadsheets and email workflows can be replaced by tailored apps that accelerate processes and minimise errors.
  • Seamless integration: Low-code platforms connect data sources and automate workflows, ensuring teams can access accurate information in real-time.
  • Visibility and accountability: Your low-code apps can track approvals transparently in real-time, keeping everyone in the loop and simplifying auditing.
  • Change and resilience: Low-code development is highly visual and intuitive, so it’s easy to see how apps work – and update them quickly to meet changing needs.
  • Compliance and security: The best low-code platforms offer security features that protect sensitive data and satisfy regulations. Data encryption, access controls and audit trails mitigate privacy risks and improve overall security.

Climbing out of the quagmire

Embracing low-code app development can be a game-changer for teams who’ve been held back by legacy systems. Now you can unlock new levels of efficiency, accuracy and relevance — and thrive in the digital age.

It’s time to bid farewell to the spreadsheet and email quagmire, caused by a mish-mash of systems … and step into a future of streamlined and secure workflows. It’s a good look.

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