Rob wrote a white paper called Spreadsheet Addiction: The True Cost to the CPG Industry. In it, he lists the reasons why Excel is so popular and widely used and he lists the reasons why it costs more than you think. I’d excerpt some of that text, but I don’t know how to select text in a pdf that opens in my browser and I don’t care to learn. So you’ll have to go read it for yourself. It’s only five pages.
When I worked for a commercial general contractor in the construction industry, I was fortunate to be able to use Timberline accounting software. It was written by accounts specifically for general contractors. Similarly, Dexter+Chaney makes software that subcontractors rave about. When a company has to change their processes to accommodate either of these packages, they’re probably doing themselves a favor.
When I moved to a manufacturing company, one of my first objectives was to dump Quickbooks and find the Timberline of the manufacturing industry. What I found was a bunch of applications that did about 75% of what I wanted them to do. I already had Quickbooks, which does about 50%. So the value proposition was paying more than $20,000 for the next 75%. The remaining 25% would still have to be done outside of the package. Needless to say, five years hence I’m still using Quickbooks.
Outside of a few industries, it’s very difficult to find software that meets all of your needs. Property management commpanies, attorneys, public accountants, and doctors are all examples where you probably can find such a package. But manufacturing, like most other industries, is just too diverse for any company to produce great software; great for your business, that is.
That leaves custom applications that bolt on to your multi-thousand dollar package. Small companies certainly don’t have the resources to write their own in-house .NET-backed-by-SQLServer application. And it’s not just small companies. Many people reading this blog make their living because companies large and small don’t have the resources to do it or haven’t set those priorities for their IT departments.
That leaves accountants, engineers, production managers, and owners to do the job. What do they use? You guessed it: Excel and Access.
So let’s stop trying to convince people to eschew these fine programs. Rather, let’s educate them in how to develop responsibly by using best practices and understanding the risks and limitations. Now I’ll step off my soapbox and hear what you have to say about it.