How Companies Can Deal with Sharing Excel Spreadsheets with Many Users
Due to its familiarity, accessibility and versatility for data capture and calculation centric applications, Excel is a ubiquitous tool, in use at businesses in virtually every industry. From start-ups to global multi-national corporations, Excel is used for business processes such as modeling, analytics, data aggregation, and configuration, pricing and quoting (“CPQ”).
As the needs of a business grow, however, challenges associated with the use of Excel also grow, particularly when shared – issues such as version control, file integrity, intellectual property protection, and access control. Without the proper tools, procedures and resources in place, these shared spreadsheet problems can bog down processes or even derail projects.
Understanding these issues allows businesses to develop solutions for multiple users that streamline and secure workflows while still taking full advantage of Excel.
Drawbacks of Excel for Multiple Users
Since it is a powerful and highly flexible tool, Excel is relatively easily configured for an organization’s specific and custom requirements. However, when collaboration is part of the requirements, Excel quickly reminds us that it was not really designed to be, in fact, a collaborative tool. One of the top issues that organizations face is version control.
Excel version control
We have all probably experienced the confusion of which version of a spreadsheet is the current or correct one, and the more users who are updating, exchanging and aggregating, the greater the level of confusion and inefficiency. As revised versions stack up on users’ desktops, it becomes all too easy to lose track and end up working on or exchanging out-of-date spreadsheets, often with disastrous results.
Proprietary data & intellectual property security
Another collaboration drawback is proprietary data and intellectual property security. Because Excel spreadsheets are easily emailed or copied, it is nearly impossible to ensure access for only those users who actually need to be able to see and update the file. Furthermore, undesirable alterations can be introduced, and even propagated unknowingly.
Businesses need a solution that eliminates these shared spreadsheet problems while still enabling them to take advantage of their historical investment, familiarity, and Excel’s strengths – and without having to resort to developing expensive, often risky and time-consuming custom-coded applications.
EASA’s Solution: Streamlines and Protects Shared Spreadsheets for Multiple Users
In order to eliminate the drawbacks of trying to support multiple users with Excel, organizations must implement a process that allows for version and access control, protects IP and keeps track of usage details – all without complicating the workflow. This is where EASA comes into play. It’s unique “spreadsheet-as-a-back end” architecture provides a game changing upgrade to Excel.
EASA not only removes obstacles for Excel users, it uniquely enables organizations to continue using their native Excel files, complete with any macros, VBA or high level formulas. This cannot be accomplished with solutions that “convert” or “translate” Excel files – a common approach to “web-enabling” Excel with solutions such as SharePoint, Google Docs, etc.
Process Automation and Workflow Management
In addition to removing the well-known spreadsheet drawbacks, EASA is also a powerful automation tool that allows nearly any other software, including in-house solutions, to be integrated and workflows automated. Data exchange, in both directions, is also automated. If workflow management is required, for example obtaining approval before a quote can be released to a customer, EASA can halt a workflow until a conditional requirement is made, and only then will it proceed. Notifications can be automatically generated alerting the next in line to fulfill their task, and various outputs – PDFs, Word docs and BI dashboards for example – can be subsequently generated.
If you would like to learn more about how EASA deploys Excel at the enterprise level, take a look at how EASA works.