Public Health England reported a 16,000 glitch in its Covid case count due to Excel spreadsheet hell. But should we be the first to throw stones at PHE’s glasshouse?

So many small businesses today rely on Excel to run. How many spreadsheets do you have: an outbreak, a manifestation, or an outright plague of them?

Many things can go wrong, from not adding up (how many times have you inserted a row and forgotten to update the Sum formula?) to referencing the wrong cell or just having a formatting error as with PHE. There can be version hell from multiple people working on their own local copy in a silo.

They all take time to produce and check each month.

So what can we do about it? Two words: digital transformation.

We can open up Excel and take an inventory of our Excels! List the names of all your regular ones. Write what task each performs, e.g. track orders, report sales by service line. Then summarise in two or three words a theme for the systems gap they are covering e.g. invoice completeness, sales analytics.

You now have a good map of the bits that must be missing in your systems, as you need an Excel to smooth it over. Look how many times the same theme appears – these are your low hanging fruit for internal time savings and efficiencies.

It is a case now of looking for what apps could do those tasks better for you instead. There are lots of specialist tools out there. Software such as Xero has a large app catalogue of specialist tools aimed at just your industry. But it’s not just Xero. The key is, does it integrate with your other software?

Your business is not the NHS. You can be agile – use that advantage to eliminate your spreadsheet hell today!