Spreadsheet software, like Excel, is incredibly versatile and has been used widely in business since its early days in 1987. It is still used heavily now by most companies and understandably so. It provides a way of getting up and running very quickly to help log, create and capture information as well as manipulate data via its formulas or inbuilt languages. You can see why it is so popular. At Bullet Web Development we also use spreadsheets as part of our daily workflow. It just makes sense if you want a quick tabular tool that can be fired up in seconds.
People understandably adopt spreadsheets to help perform administration tasks because it is so intuitive and in a way quite personal. You feel empowered to have this tool available to you that can do many processes: It becomes your friend.
It is your friend for a while until that is, it becomes your enemy. Fear not, there is a cure to this spreadsheet problem.
Is there a problem?
Consider this scenario: You are a company that provides a recruitment service for temporary workers to a local authority. You perform the physical payroll using an off the shelf package like SAGE™️ payroll but you have a number of ancillary processes like expenses, agency invoicing, timesheet entry that also has to happen.
I think you would agree you have a number of fairly complex processes going on that require quite a lot of manual input and calculations. That’s where Excel provides as a solution. It encompasses all the power to hold your statutory variables like tax and NI rates, minimum wage, holiday pay etc that can be thrown into a bunch of formulas and out comes the result. Brilliant! For a fairly small investment, you have managed to automate a large chunk of complex and varying calculations of your business.
Wait… you said there was a problem!
OK consider this further: If the above worked fine for the first 20 contractors then all well and good. You were able to manually merge data to feed into SAGE™️, perform the Payroll and then use that output to manually create payslip and remittances for the contractors to so they can see how their pay was made up.
What happens at 200, 300 or 500 contractors? You can still do the same processing and deliver the same level of output, right? Well, you could but you would start realising that you either need more staff to do this or more time to complete the tasks. The latter is often never an option and the former can be expensive.
What you have is a bonafide business that has scaled up 10 fold and Excel is not going to cut it for you anymore. Not only do you need to do the payroll processes but you will need to invoice all their agencies, be aware of differing payment dates from the agencies, ensure that expense claims are within the right limits and keep tabs on moving statutory figures.
Just the tip of the iceberg that could see you sinking very soon under the weight of too much to do.
What is the solution?
First, let’s see what the problem really is.
Here are some fairly obvious questions if your business was to grow like this:
- Will my current processes scale?
- Can I quickly and accurately interface with SAGE™️ payroll?
- How can I ensure that data gets entered accurately?
- How can I automate the verification of data entered?
- Can I securely send payslips and remittances to the contractors?
- Can I easily invoice agencies and track payments?
- How do I know when I can pay contractors based on payments received from agencies?
- How can I reduce time heavy telephone support?
This list could be quite long but I think you can see the issue. As your business grows everything gets so much more complex. The correct processes and procedures are key to ensuring things get done. A spreadsheet solution isn’t the answer. It was fine whilst it was an extension of you (remember it’s a personal tool) but as a full-blown application, it now isn’t.
Unfortunately, the solution to the above cannot be succinctly described here. There is way too much to include in an article like this.
I use spreadsheets and they work just fine…
I am sure they do and in many cases, they will. We have already sung the praises of the spreadsheet. We are very aware of how great they are.
However, should you find that one day it doesn’t quite do what you want or it becomes more of a chore than it should let us know and we would be only too pleased to discuss our approach with you.