Running your Business on Spreadsheets – The Downside

Spreadsheets are the backbone of so many organizations. They help managers keep track of projects, staff and their accounts, right? Well what if we told you there was a better, more efficient way to schedule staff and manage related HR costs?


When an organization is starting out, the main focus tends to be on three business-critical topics. Typically, branding, getting a product or service to market, and controlling costs. To keep track of these areas, companies turn to spreadsheets to manage many tasks. Everything from payroll, to bookkeeping, and even employee scheduling. However, as the business grows and needs change, using just a spreadsheet can quickly turn into a major hindrance.

One of the most popular uses of spreadsheets in the early stages of any company is for scheduling employees. Scheduling itself is a thankless and difficult job. It can take time to find the right employees to fill shifts based on their personal preferences and your cost restrictions. When creating any schedule, your employees’ availability, as well as specific site and shift qualifications, is necessary to consider. This, however, becomes more difficult to manage as your customer base grows and complexity increases. There are many benefits and transition points within the scheduling process when using spreadsheets, and moving away from them. We highlight the advantages and the adjustments your business will likely face as the business grows.

Why start with spreadsheets?

There are many key advantages when using spreadsheets in the early stages of your business from the point of view of cost, familiarity and versatility. Some of these advantages are:

It’s Free

Spreadsheet tools are generally free or come as part of your computer’s toolkit. Therefore, it’s readily available and typically doesn’t accrue any additional cost.

It’s Familiar

Most people are familiar from an early stage with their productivity tools that come with your office computer. People use them at home and at school. This breeds familiarity and ease of use when you begin using these tools in a business scenario.

It’s Versatile

Spreadsheets are versatile for any new business. They use them for many different business tasks including accounting, maintaining customer records, generating invoices, and keeping track of your payables.

Problems with Using Spreadsheets

As with anything that seems too good to be true, it usually is. As your business grows, managing critical aspects within a spreadsheet becomes more and more difficult. This section looks at some of the problems that will be encountered as your business needs outgrow the spreadsheet capabilities.

Spreadsheets aren’t collaborative 

How do you share information from your spreadsheet with partners or managers? How do you allow them to collaborate? When the business is small, collaboration typically occurs between a few people. In other words, when you’re small, it’s easy to walk over to a person’s desk and provide or get feedback immediately. However, this isn’t a practical approach when you have multiple locations with multiple managers who all need to contribute and provide feedback.

Spreadsheets aren’t scalable 

Similar to the problem with collaboration, as you add more complexity to your business, your original spreadsheet design will need to be modified. It will continually need modifications as you grow to add more employees, locations, special skills and other key business items. All of these added complexities will result in last minute changes and modifications. Within spreadsheets, there will be no audit log of what, when, and who performed any changes unless a strict manual process to log changes is followed. This introduces unnecessary risk into your business that can result in major headaches and possible lack of accountability if staff knows that if they make a mistake, no one will be able to trace it back to them.

Spreadsheets aren’t integrated with other core applications

As your business grows and you introduce other software tools, data from both your software productivity tools may not easily integrate with each other. This means someone will need to manually input data from the spreadsheet into one or more systems (swivel chair integration). As your business grows manual processes will not scale, taking more time and ultimately leading to higher costs. Ideally you want to automate as much of your process to help reduce manual efforts.

Spreadsheets Increase the Chance of Input Errors 

Spreadsheets are inherently error prone. Two of the common errors are the setup of formulas and particularly complex formulas, and incorrect values keyed into cells (typically called a fat finger error). Although these can be mitigated by reducing the number of people editing the spreadsheet as well as having someone double-check the data, at some point an error will be introduced. The only fix for these errors is manual effort: tracing through a spreadsheet to locate an error which can be tedious and time consuming work. This only increases with the increase in spreadsheet complexity.

Spreadsheet tools need to be managed

Although there are cloud based versions of spreadsheets, to get the most flexible product, you typically need to install it on your computer. This means constant maintenance on the computer storing the data, as well as constant backups to ensure nothing is lost in case of a virus or computer failure. If you do not backup your files and there is a hardware failure, you run the risk of losing or corrupting key business files.

Using Software

Eventually your business will grow to a size where you will need to consider specific tools for specific business problems. Some examples include finding an accounting system, a payroll system and a workforce management tool to manage your growing workforce. This is where automated, cloud based scheduling software can assist. Over the last few years there has been a concerted push towards cloud applications which overcome many of the challenges associated with spreadsheets. Specifically, a cloud based scheduling tool will allow you to collaborate amongst managers and employees and be accessible from anywhere you have an internet connection.

Here are a few ways Celayix can help you realize the advantages of using a cloud based scheduling and time and attendance application while helping you reach your business potential:

  • Reduce scheduling time by up to 95% with automated shift scheduling
  • Automate scheduling processes and scheduling quality with AI
  • Eliminate overtime automatically
  • Easily manage sick calls, no shows, and last-minute schedule changes
  • Improve payroll data with Mobile Employee Check-In/Check-Out
  • Integrate with your other business systems such as HR/Payroll effortlessly
  • Reduce late Check-Ins & No-Shows with automated shift notifications, acceptance, and verification for employees.

You may also like…

What is Self Scheduling and its Benefits?

What is Self Scheduling and its Benefits?

Self-scheduling is a method of scheduling a workforce through the participation of employees. Is self-scheduling right for your company?
Workplace Privacy: An Employer’s Obligation to Their Employees

Workplace Privacy: An Employer’s Obligation to Their Employees

Employees have a right to privacy even when they're using company computers and mobile phones. Employers have an obligation to protect employee records. Workplace privacy can be a complex issue, so we've laid it all out for you.
The True Causes & Costs of Absenteeism in the Workplace

The True Causes & Costs of Absenteeism in the Workplace

Absenteeism is a minefield of different causes, costs, and effects. Whether you know it or not, you are likely throwing money away by not addressing it upfront in your organization. We've broken down the causes and costs of absenteeism, and what you can do to combat it in your organization.