Excel logoNow don’t get me wrong, Excel is a great tool I have a lot of experience with, it has many very good functions (most of which I suspect 80% of its users don’t use) which you can do a heck of a lot with. But when it comes to business record-keeping, it is very poor.

Of course this doesn’t apply just to Excel, there are many spreadsheet programs now in general use, but Excel is still the dominant force in the market.

Here’s the reasons we believe Excel to be a poor choice for record keeping:


It is Excel’s very utility that causes it the most problems. The vast majority of spreadsheets include errors, including most of those we receive from clients. The reasons for this are that every formula is hand coded, even if it is copied from another cell that original has to be absolutely correct not to duplicate it to the new cell. We often see incorrect VAT calculations, incorrect totals and dating problems. No, not the sort that Blind Date could solve.

We can and do help clients with their spreadsheets, but often this is to tell them that there are many better solutions out there.


When we get sent an Excel spreadsheet it comes complete, it is a whole separate file. We can, and do, make amendments to correct them. However, those corrections are not reflected in the spreadsheet you now have, and have continued to use.

To try and merge the two, and correct the formulas in your current spreadsheet, is more hassle than it is worth.

Often the data is now past its use too, because getting it out in any meaningful way is difficult to impossible. Which leads us to:


Excel gives a very basic view of your business and its performance. Every book-keeping and accounting package out there completely outclasses it unless you are willing to spend an inordinate amount of time developing something for your own use.

You did read our first reason too?

That spreadsheet is likely to have any number of errors, and as the complexity of your spreadsheet increases so do the possibilities for errors to appear.

This relegates Excel to just a cash book, a tool to record expenses and income and nothing else. No reports to see how you did last quarter, last year or to compare with budgets.


We’re not talking (just) virus protection here, or unwanted access to your information. What happens when your hard drive dies?

Having been in this situation I’ve known the joy of starting up another computer and being ready to go exactly where I was before. Anything stored on only one PC is a risk, especially if that is business critical information.

This is a risk that can be easily avoided.


You’ve had a hard day and want to go home. You also know you need to complete the VAT return. Well, unless you can get the file home and work on it there easily, you’re stuck.

Wouldn’t it be better if your information was available to you everywhere?


If you expect your company to grow beyond yourself, and you need your new employee(s) to access your sales records then you have a problem. They need to use that one file (or sometimes many different ones to get over this particular problem) and the one PC that it is installed on.

Of course more hands also means it’s more likely someone will move something or change a formula to ‘correct’ it.


You know those new employees, what if they are responsible for entering in the income? Would you know that £2,000 or more had been changed £1,000, and by whom. Where’s the audit trail that every good bookkeeping package has?


OK, so that’s the main problems with using Excel. What do I recommend?

Find out next week when I layout all of the available options.

In the meantime if you’d like to know our top recommendations Contact Us.

Author: Steve Lincoln

Forward thinking accountant and cloud accounting champion, Steve believes all businesses should benefit from the better service made possible by the new technology.

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