Drowning in Spreadsheets? A business system may be the answer

James Gulliver
Posted by James Gulliver
20th April 2021


If like many business owners you find yourself creating large numbers of spreadsheets to keep control of your business, create logs or manage data, you may well benefit from developing a business management system.

An organisation, as the name suggests, requires processes and oversight to be in place, to ensure it is working efficiently and maximising the potential for profit. As a business grows and evolves the complexity and volume of processes will increase, which can turn into a constant battle to manage.

In terms of process, the main data management concerns can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Integrity
  • Precision
  • Isolation

The integrity of data held in spreadsheets is always questionable. It relies on the person entering the information to be unbiased and diligent at all times. As the spreadsheet is a record of, rather than a part of the process it will also often not get updated “as it happens” leaving more chance for errors. 

The precision of the data held in spreadsheets could be questioned. Again, if there is a delay in inputting the information this can cause issues with accuracy. Additionally, accidental overwrites or deletions are very common.  

The last and most problematic issue is that of data isolation or “data Islands” as they could be known.  This is where data for processes or departments are isolated so analysis at a top level is difficult and always reactive. This isolation of data means that overarching issues are not detected soon enough, and often require an enormous effort to mitigate the failings when they are discovered.

How can a business system help?

The key to using a business management system to regain control of the data and processes in your business is in how that data is stored. A Business Management System (BMS) is based on a central database. This data is stored in a “normalised” manner, allowing for easy one-to-many relationships between records and historical records of information after it has been updated. 

A BMS will have controls over data input formats, thus increasing the accuracy and integrity of data.  This central data store will also allow for real-time analysis, so issues will be flagged and alerts sent out before they happen, putting you in control of your response before it escalates.

Your BMS will allow you to set and monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Understanding the KPI results in real-time will allow you to create monitoring tasks that alert for trends, allowing senior management to be kept informed and intervene only when there is an issue, rather than needing to constantly check the data for themselves.

Finally, a bespoke BMS will allow you to grow and evolve the system alongside your business through updates and integrations. Meaning you never need to lose control of your data, regardless of your business size. 

How much does a BMS cost?

The cost of a BMS can vary depending on the route that you take, but you should be aware that the adoption of a BMS is not a small investment in either time or money. You have two options – either a bespoke system designed around your business, or an “off the shelf” system made to work for your business.

Off-the-shelf

There are a number of “off-the-shelf” options for business management systems. These are often designed with a particular sector or industry in mind. The main financial costs associated with this will include the purchase and license of the software. You may also want to consider some development time to ensure a smooth implementation and integration.

“Off-the-shelf” software is often seen as a cheaper, less costly option, but in reality, the combination of licence and configuration can make the short-term costs similar to a “bespoke” solution.  

An “off-the-shelf” solution should, in theory, take less time to implement as it is already created. Though there will be time spent making it work for your business and you may need to think about workaround solutions etc.

Bespoke

“Bespoke” software is designed from the ground up to meet your specifications. You will play a vital role in ensuring that all of your needs are addressed. A bespoke system also has the benefit of being an asset to the business, and you can be sure that it will always suit your business operations as it is infinitely adjustable.

Regardless of which option you choose, the costs associated with a BMS are considerable but the returns longer-term are very attractive.

 A BMS can do a lot of the administration heavy lifting within an organisation allowing for considerable savings on salary costs, allowing resources to be redeployed elsewhere.  Many businesses have successfully justified the cost of an admin system by seeing it as part of their salary costs.

How do you get started?

The onboarding process is a challenge in itself. If you have opted for an “off-the-shelf” option then the onboarding is a cliff edge event. e.g You will switch from spreadsheets to BMS in one very large step. This method takes a lot of planning and in a great many instances leads to a lot of false starts and quite often a complete failure to launch.

The “bespoke” option allows for a smoother transition with parts on the current processes being replaced gradually user-by-user, spreadsheet-by-spreadsheet with the onboarding being carried out so gradually that the disruption to the business is minimal.

Can you quantify the returns or benefits? 

It is difficult to fully quantify the benefits or returns associated with a BMS, few businesses operate in a stable market and those who invest in these systems are looking to grow and evolve, thus making the benchmarking of savings difficult to quantify.

That said, as a full-service technology provider we have worked with a great many businesses across a wide range of sectors and we do see one irrefutable commonality. The businesses that are considered major players or disruptors within their specific sectors are the ones who have embraced the development of a comprehensive Business Management System, whether specifically built for them or a heavily customised one.

We’ve seen these businesses benefit in all areas of their organisation - from the reduction of both direct and indirect costs to an increase in business intelligence, helping them to gain and maintain a competitive edge.


If you are looking to address organisational issues and move away from using a plethora of spreadsheets to manage your business, then speak to one of our expert team about your administration needs. We can look to find the most suitable BMS options for your business going forward.