Stop Using Spreadsheets to Track These Six Things

 In Best Practices, Business Intelligence

This is a guest blog written by ClockShark, a mobile time tracking and scheduling app for construction field service companies.

VisiCalc was the first widely-used spreadsheet for personal computers, created for the Apple II computer in 1978. Finally, people had a relatively easy way to perform calculations, sort data, and perform tasks they were previously using pencil and paper for.

However, times have changed. It’s been almost forty years since VisiCalc was created, and there are far more advanced ways to track areas that are crucial in business.

Stop tracking these six areas of business in spreadsheets, by ClockShark and SalesPad.

Let’s take a look at some things you should stop using a spreadsheet for.

1. Accounting

This one almost goes without saying, but time after time, we see new clients in our office who have been keeping all of their business records on spreadsheets. Some of them even use elaborate formulas to show balances and percentages of income. But what about a P&L? How about an aging of your receivables or payables? These are not easily pulled together from your worksheets.

Accounting software exists in many forms and can range from free to very expensive. The software can be as sophisticated or as simple as you need it. For example, Intuit’s QuickBooks has made a name for itself as one of the top go-to accounting platforms for small- to medium-sized businesses. QuickBooks offers an on-premise desktop version of its software, as well as an online cloud which is paid for as a monthly subscription. QuickBooks also offers varying levels of features, so businesses can only pay for the accounting capabilities they need.

Replace those spreadsheets with software designed specifically for accounting functions. It will save you time — which translates into money.

2. Tasks

It seems so easy. Make a list in a spreadsheet, then use the little check mark symbol to indicate the task is completed. You can even sort it alphabetically. Not too bad, but how about sharing it with your team? How easily can you add emails to a task? Attach documents?

As soon as your tasks require collaboration, it becomes clear that spreadsheets just won’t cut it.

There are so many CRMs, project managers, task organizers — why not use something that is designed specifically for collaborative teams and businesses? That’s why Basecamp, a web-based project management tool, was created. The tool focuses mainly on to-do lists, managing milestones in project timelines, forum messaging and file sharing. Every task is tracked, and team members can comment on projects and to-dos — allowing everyone to see where a certain task is at and what is necessary to complete it.

3. Time tracking

If you’re using spreadsheets to track time, you either found a form online or you made it up yourself. You have each day of the week, a start time, an end time, and allowances for lunch. You made one six years ago, and you’ve been running it through the copy machine every week since then. How’s it looking now? A little the worse for wear? Besides the appearance of said spreadsheet, you can’t even use spreadsheet functions unless you know how to tell it to calculate time — and you probably don’t.

How much time is your payroll clerk spending each week manually calculating the time on these spreadsheets? Not that long, you say? Multiply that “small” amount of time by your number of employees. Now how long is it? Right — too long.

There are some really good time tracking apps available. They can handle job costing, connect to your accounting software, and even accomplish scheduling for your employees and contractors.

At ClockShark, we fulfill a tricky time-tracking need: a mobile time tracking and scheduling app for construction and field service businesses. Our cloud-based software helps businesses eliminate the risk of human error associated with paper time sheets, and frees them up to spend that precious time elsewhere — like running the business.

4. Expense reports

Same as above, you found an expense spreadsheet online, and you made it your own. You’ve got a line for each item — meals, taxi, airfare. Oh, wait a minute! What about that tip for the maid? Where does that go?

Don’t forget to attach all of your receipts. Now the A/P clerk has to unfold them and try to read the fading print to make sure they match what’s written on the report. She may even have to decipher what’s underneath the coffee stains.

The truth is, most people fill in those reports by hand. They don’t even use the formulas to total each category. Now the clerk has to do that part as well. How about using an app instead? There are many to choose from. Snap a picture of the receipt with your phone, fill in a few fields, and press “Submit.” This saves time and prevents math errors for everyone.

Expensify’s motto is “Expense reports that don’t suck!” The software offers receipt scanning and reimbursement for both personal and business ventures. Everything that’s a pain about paper expense reports and spreadsheets is literally automated away with the software.

Additionally, the IRS allows digital records for deductible expenses, and you don’t have to worry about those thermal receipts that disappear as time goes by. If you have a digital record, you have it forever.

5. Usernames and passwords

Those columns are so tempting. Website here, username there, password next to it.

Stop. It’s actually a really bad idea. Why make it easy for the thief who takes your computer to get into your bank accounts? There are several cloud-based password vaults that are safe and easy to use. Get one and use it.

PC Magazine put out a roundup of the best password managers of 2017. With varying price ranges and features, the monthly subscription to a username and password manager is well worth the security and peace of mind you’ll receive in return.

6. Inventory

For businesses that handle inventory, you’d think that moving past messy spreadsheets would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, many businesses are playing the spreadsheet game with their inventory and moving between disconnected systems to handle everything from accounting to order processing.

If you spend more time trying to track down items than selling them, or are on version 100 of the spreadsheet you use to track counts (and you’re not sure everyone else is using the same one), it’s clear you need better (or any) software to handle your inventory.

SalesPad’s inventory management software is easy to use and provides a centralized hub for inventory, orders and customer data. SalesPad offers both a desktop and cloud suite, and can also handle key inventory-related functions like purchasing, POS, credit processing and more.

Spreadsheets may have had their place for a while, but they really shouldn’t be handling your inventory anymore.

RIP spreadsheets

We’ve come a long way since VisiCalc first wowed us. We’ve found plenty of uses for those spreadsheets, and some of them are still quite valid. You can (and should) continue to use them for calculating anything that’s not easily dealt with using an app or another software. Christmas card lists? Sure. Guest list to your wedding? That’s fine. Accounting functions not included in your software? Why not?

But, be sure to look at what apps are available. You just might find the perfect alternative — one that cuts the spreadsheet and saves you time, effort, and money.


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