Don'tFrom the Not Just Numbers blog:

Just a short post this week, and a one you might be surprised by. I am going to encourage you not to use Excel!

Yes, after years of telling you how to get the best out of Excel, I am going to tell you to avoid using it!

Well at least for one particular purpose…

Whereas a lot of my work is producing spreadsheets that are self-contained, I work with many clients where I use Excel as a tool to report from their database systems (typically accounting packages or ERP/MRP systems).

Many times, these reports are required because the system won’t give them what they want – some of the time because all of the data they need isn’t stored in the system.

In this scenario, it is very easy to store the additional data in the spreadsheet report, but I would urge you – DON’T!

Whereas the report will work just as well, if the additional data is stored in the spreadsheet, the information will not be available from within the system, or for other reports required in future. Very quickly, you can find  various different versions of the same data scattered around in spreadsheets all over the business.

If at all possible, find a way to start recording this data in the system – and use Excel to report on it like the rest of the data.

This is usually possible, although inevitably there are some systems that are not flexible enough for the company’s true needs. Storing the data in a spreadsheet outside of the system will work as a patch, but is not the ideal solution.

Excel is a fantastic tool that has many applications – but it is important to know when not to use it too!

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