If you’ve ever used a spreadsheet you know there’s far more to the process of creating one than a computer screen filled with tiny lines that you plug numbers into. Your business may rely on spreadsheets to forecast the next quarter’s spending or review the year’s accomplishments. Spreadsheets can have positive and negative repercussions throughout your company.


The fact that spreadsheets are able to be shared may be a boon or a con to your company. An advantage of sharing spreadsheets means that you can encourage employee collaboration. One spreadsheet shared among several employees cuts down on multiple files, which can contribute to information being lost or overwritten. For example, if several members of your team are tracking a single progress through a Gantt chart, each can open the spreadsheet – after accessing it from your network and ensuring none of the others has it open – and update their changes. Upon resaving the file, it’s instantly updated and available to the rest of the team. On the other hand, this ability to make changes means that an employee could potentially harm or “break” the spreadsheet. Problems such as workers who enter the wrong information, overwrite or wipe out cell data or simply perform the wrong operation on the spreadsheet can destroy months of work in a couple of seconds.


For an instant, at-a-glance view into your business operations at a single moment in time, it’s hard to beat a spreadsheet. You’ve usually got columns and rows of numbers right in front of you, and you may have even taken advantage of your software’s ability to generate illustrative graphics such as charts. This snapshot in time is an excellent way to present data to your stakeholders, but it can cause problems as well. A disadvantage of the moment-in-time theory is that it can become outdated very quickly. Should you take a snapshot of your product sales spreadsheet, for example, within an hour your figures could look very different. Someone viewing an archived version of that spreadsheet could be taking in outdated information and make wrongly informed judgments.


All spreadsheets require software, but the software you choose may impact your company in positive or negative ways. Your corporate policy or even IT department may dictate the software you use, which may depend on what you’ve already got installed. Some software programs, such as Microsoft Excel, come bundled with other programs. Your IT department or financial officers may restrict you and your employees to using what you have. This is an advantage because you’ve got software that you don’t have to spend any money on, and it may be something you know and have used for a long time. On the other hand, if you don’t yet have spreadsheet software and must pick something unfamiliar, there’ll be a ramp-up time that could tie up and frustrate employee resources as they get up to speed.


With spreadsheets, sometimes more is better, and sometimes it is not. Large-scale spreadsheet programs often come with extras, such as templates and macros. These benefit you by saving you time. In the case of templates, you can often find pre-built spreadsheets for things like loan amortization, budgets and personnel scheduling. Macros are small mathematical calculations that perform functions such as summing and dividing cell contents. There can be a “too much of a good thing” result, such as when your employees rely on templates and macros instead of letting their own creativity or ideas flow. And in cases where your software doesn’t include these items, such as with free bare-bones programs, employees may be stymied from too much exposure to having things done for them.

Other Options

Whether you’re a tried and true fan of keeping data in a hard-copy ledger or prefer to use databases, transferring to a spreadsheet from another way of doing business has its positives and negatives. While a hard-copy ledger or spiral notebook may be more portable than a CPU, you may find something as simple as performing edits much easier in a spreadsheet. There are no cross-outs, erasures or liquid paper spills with a spreadsheet, for example. A database may also present problems when you want to edit data. If a piece of information in the database has been linked multiple times, it’s not always possible to change it in just one place. Your updates will be pushed through, possibly corrupting data elsewhere.