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Is Procurement Ready to Say Good-Bye to the Spreadsheet?

(Featured Image from Microsoft website.)

Yesterday, June 27th, I ran across an interesting tweet. Jon Hansen (@piblogger1) tweeted the following:

I wholeheartedly agree with Jon. In this age of blockchain and and small app startups disrupting almost every industry you would think that procurement, and supply chain in general, would be ready to part ways with spreadsheets.

But are we?

An article from Robert Half reports that 63% of U.S. companies still rely on excel spreadsheets. And a Small Business Trends reports shows that 84% of Small Businesses rely on excel!

This comes as no surprise for a number of reasons:

  1. Spreadsheets are cheap or free. A small business needing to keep costs down can get Microsoft Office for the low price of $10 or so a month, or just utilize Google Spreadsheets for free. OpenOffice is another free offering that has a program just like excel. The list of free alternatives goes on.
  2. Spreadsheets is easy. I don’t care who you are, spreadsheets is easy to learn. And once learned, spreadsheets can be utilized to do a plethora of things. Organize data, create charts and tables, analyze said data and charts/tables. Even an iota of training can lead an employee to create a generally acceptable presentation of data. Want to learn more about how to do things in spreadsheets? There are a number of excellent free online resources, or you can pay for a book, or even pay for an advanced class at your local community college. Big solutions providers? Not so much.
  3. Current ERP/WMS haven’t done a good job creating a viable replacement for spreadsheets. Despite SAP, Oracle, Coupa and others making great strides, the numbers I cited above speak for themselves. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)/Work Management Systems (WMS)/etc. do not provide enough of a solution to effectively unseat the spreadsheet.

I have personal experience in this area.

The company I used to work for had used an industry specific WMS for decades. Spreadsheets were the norm for day-to-day operations. As I left, the company I worked for was beginning the long road to a major upgrade of the WMS. But when asked about spreadsheets and additional functionalities, the WMS supplier replied that the company would still need to utilize spreadsheets.

Two small businesses I’ve worked with in the Greater Omaha Metropolitan area use spreadsheets for 80-100% of their operations. One of the businesses effectively has a WMS at their disposal, but that only covers a small fraction of what they need to track, and the WMS doesn’t connect with the business owner’s bank account. Enter spreadsheets. The other small business is just starting up, and there is zero dollars in the budget for even NetSuite by Oracle. Spreadsheets fill that void.

Conclusion

I think, as do many others within supply chain and procurement, that it’s time to say good-bye to spreadsheets. It’s 2019, after all.

But, then again, we were supposed to have flying cars and cities on Mars by this point…

Maybe someone will come along and create that perfect ERP that finally replaces the spreadsheet.

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