Q1) Can Excel spreadsheets be used to solve any business problem?

A1) There is almost no small or medium sized business management problem which cannot be assisted by a spreadsheet, but that doesn’t mean that spreadsheets are ideal or even suited to ALL problems. Oh, and when I say spreadsheets, I’m referring to Microsoft Excel which is hands down the most popular software for spreadsheets.

Graphical and image handling problems, for instance, are undoubtedly best left to other packages. Spreadsheets are ideally suited to problems where numerical and textural data needs to be manipulated such as accounts handling, cash flow analysis, mailing lists and invoicing etc.

Q2) How long do good spreadsheets take to write/construct?

A2) How long is a piece of string! A spreadsheet can take anything from a half a day, to many weeks to build. To save you and your employees creating, from scratch, each and every spreadsheet, there are a ton of already built templates which can be used straight-from-the-box, or developed further, to suit the individual needs of you or your business. Should you require modifications to be made to standard spreadsheets they can often be performed quickly and efficiently.

Q3) Can spreadsheets be used to assist business functions in really large organizations?

A3) Spreadsheet based business solutions work best when the organizations data can be stored on a single “working” spreadsheet and they are thus most suited solving every day, organization wide, business problems in small to medium sized companies where the number of users of a single database spreadsheet is small. Business tools that need to support multiple users simultaneously are not normally best solved using spreadsheets. This, of course, doesn’t mean that spreadsheets are not suited to large organizations! Indeed there are many smaller business problems in large organizations for which spreadsheets offer the quickest and best possible solution.

Q4) Are spreadsheets difficult to use?

A4) Spreadsheets are very powerful tools, far more powerful than most, if not all, business applications. They can, and every day do, solve a vast array of business problems from managing small mailing lists right through to evaluating Wall Street Banks’ option portfolios. This power is achieved through the flexibility and complexity of the spreadsheet programs themselves which can lead to inelegant spreadsheets and the accusation that they are “difficult to use”.

When it comes to learning spreadsheets, you can go the DIY route and learn from various online resources – blogs and Youtube videos for example. There are also several Excel consulting firms that can provide you with adequate training through hourly consulting or their own online training courses. You don’t need to “master” Excel in order to use it effectively for business purposes. Understanding the basics of how to navigate Excel and how spreadsheets can be used will allow you to take advantage of this powerful software application.