Goodbye Excel and Hello Business Apps: The Future of Business Data Management

tablet business data report

Have you got your party outfit sorted? Have you bought a present? Well, you'd better get ready because next year Microsoft Excel turns 35 (30 September 2020, if you want to book it in your agenda!). 

If it were a person, Excel would be married with kids and a mortgage right now. If it were a grizzly bear or a horse, it'd be into its final days. As a piece of software, it's exceeded its life expectancy by around 400% or more.

Today, Excel has sold more than a billion copies and stands as conceivably the most essential business software in the world. 

The evolution from paper to electronic spreadsheet changed the lives of accountants, bookkeepers, and institutions who needed to track, organize, and analyze data. No longer did they need to make sure "the books" were kept secure in the wall safe, but Excel also made calculations and functions simpler and quicker to carry out. Plus, digital files were easier to keep safe from prying eyes, floods and fires, and even those nasty insects that enjoy feasting on files.

As the spreadsheet evolved from paper to digital, it took limited capabilities, expanded the functions, and reached far beyond what people thought a spreadsheet could be used for:

  • Generating reports detailing customer information     

  • Payment information

  • Timesheets and employee information

  • Inventory tracking

  • Invoices          

  • Quarterly taxes     

  • Short term schedules     

  • Estimates, quotes, and sales data

  • Change proposals, and change orders     

  • Contact lists, org charts, and flow diagrams

  • Even vacation tracking

Digital Spreadsheets Still Contain Mistakes

With all its functions and capabilities, however, Excel does have its limitations. For example, a reported 88% of spreadsheets contain errors, due to bad math, wrong formatting, or human data entry errors. Such mistakes can prove costly.

An example of this occurred during the London Olympics in 2012, when an employee entered one wrong number on a spreadsheet, resulting in 10,000 tickets being overbooked. Nobody questioned the error until seating plans were being implemented at venues. The overbooked ticket holders were contacted and had their seats reallocated – the issue was fixed but at a cost.

If that sounds like an expensive mistake, then consider what happened at Kodak in 2005, when an employee added too many zeros to a severance accrual record, leading to an $11 million overstatement; once finally noticed, the adjustment was made, and Kodak's stock tumbled as a result. 

Digital spreadsheets still clearly have a place in business, but in mission-critical aspects, the time, energy, and cost to make sure everything runs smoothly across the organization can run high.

It's in these areas that emerging technologies are changing the game.

Put it in an app

What if you could have the data you currently store in static Excel documents whenever you or anyone in your company need it? Whether you're an SMB or an enterprise, what if you could convert those spreadsheets into an app that's customizable and scalable? How about eliminating those costly errors?

data reports multiple devices


At Coactive, we know a little something about taking an idea, expanding on it, executing it, testing both system and user interfaces, then extending beyond the original use to create something new.

1. Access anytime and any platform. Still have to request the latest version of a file from someone? Then wait till you get back to your laptop to access it? Alternatively, hey, it happens – are you still being handed print outs of the latest data? Business apps can be accessed 24/7 from desktop, mobile, and tablet.

2. Secure in the cloud. If you're struggling with version control, or see data being corrupted by passing through too many hands, you'll want to find a cloud-based alternative. Apps can also limit access rights or track access and changes, so you can see who worked on data, when they worked on it and, if issues occur, you can troubleshoot accurately. This prevents valuable company information from inadvertently being forwarded to the wrong person, leaving it vulnerable.

3. Completely customizable. No matter how much of Excel whizz you might be, there's often the feeling that you've had to compromise when creating your spreadsheets. With business apps, you can create everything according to spec. You could even start with a current spreadsheet configuration and change the layout, the structure, and even the design, according to changing stakeholder needs. Once the app is built, additional functions can be added as and when needs arise.

4. Reduce human error. Not everyone has accountant-level math skills or types like a data entry pro. People make mistakes. Also, as we saw in the examples of the London Olympics and Kodak, one mistake can be not entirely obvious initially but can lead to significant problems further down the line.

Creating an app with checks and balances built in allows for error-detection from the moment of data input. Human minds wander, especially with multiple projects and task-lists that are longer than your arm. Having an "Are you sure you want to do that?" message pop-up means costly and potentially embarrassing miscalculations get caught and rectified.

5. As scalable as your business. Ever-growing spreadsheets are rarely a good thing. They result in hideous and unintelligible Frankensheets, strolling through your offices and terrorizing the business. However, apps grow quickly with the needs of your expanding company.

Off-the-shelf solutions give you speed and some scalability, but, once they reach capacity, you must migrate data to a new platform that you first have to vet, test, and approve.

desktop business data report

At Coactive, we've built scalability into our vision. We understand that technology changes in a nanosecond and, if your company doesn't change with it, your business suffers.

Coactive was built from a spreadsheet. Our engineers were once in your shoes, which is why we understand the needs of rapid application in the digital landscape. Applying creative thinking to problem-solving, we can develop either simple or highly complex applications that are quicker and easier to support than traditional development. Our core focus is your success.