Why Are We Using 30 Year Old Technology Today?

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Excel was never designed to track  inventory or other assets; today’s growing businesses are ditching the 30-year-old spreadsheet in favor of real-time asset management systems.

Spreadsheets haven’t changed much since they hit the business scene in the late 70s.

VisiCalc, the first computer spreadsheet program, was launched by Personal Software in 1979. As its name suggests, it was essentially a sophisticated calculator with accounting visualization tools, which is exactly what the spreadsheet continues to be to this day. In 1983, Lotus 1-2-3 entered the game, followed by Excel in 1985 and a handful of other spreadsheet competitors over the next few years. By the 1990s, Excel was the undisputed market leader.


Related Article: Managing Inventory in Excel Can Result in Disaster

Despite their calculating origins, many small business owners use Excel and other spreadsheet programs as databases to store information such as inventory tracking or asset management. While the spreadsheet is great for formulas and for accounting tasks, it isn’t ideal for data organization.

How Excel Wrongly Became an Asset Management and Inventory Tracking Tool

Excel has become a favorite for many small business owners largely because of its familiarity. The Microsoft Office suite of business applications (including Excel) continues to dominate the market. Additionally, the spreadsheet format of rows and columns is a useful way to organize data. So, for many business owners the decision to use Excel to monitor inventory is natural, they have the program, they know how to use it, and it can perform the basic functions of inventory or asset tracking.

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The truth is, for many business owners, Excel works well in the beginning.  However, as their business begins to grow, instead of tracking 10 items, they soon find themselves tracking hundreds or thousands of items, maybe more. Excel simply can’t keep up.

Inventory Control Software Results in ROI for Small Business

“We were using an Excel spreadsheet to track our assets,” said Matt Carol of California-based Paladin Security Services.  “This was far too difficult to manage our growing operation. Besides, the spreadsheet didn’t provide the immediate insight and reports we needed to rapidly take action.”

Clearly, when it comes to managing data or storing and updating information, such as asset management or inventory tracking, Excel and spreadsheet programs simply were not designed for it.

Why Excel is History for Asset Management and Inventory Tracking

In the same way the computerized spreadsheet was a massive technological leap for accounting, the development of asset and inventory management systems that use barcode technology and barcode scanners have been breakthrough advancement for asset management and inventory tracking.

Barcodes enable users to keep specific information about an inventory item or asset right on the item. Barcode scanners can quickly read and put that information into a live database. An asset or inventory management database can store that data and make it easy to search or synthesize.

Small businesses say they see benefits immediately after changing from spreadsheets to an inventory management system.

“I was immediately able to see reports to determine the usage at each site. From there, I can see what we have in stock and what we need to order. I no longer have to guess inventory usage and spend hours a day updating spreadsheets,” said Brian Harej of Top Golf. “Manually tracking inventory was an inefficient system that affected all locations. Now, our inventory is accurate and everyone is connected. Our whole process has been improved, and works effortlessly.”

While Excel is great for accounting and calculations, it was never intended to store and manage information, especially information that needs regular updating like asset management and inventory tracking. Here is a side-by-side comparison:

When you understand the history and limitations of Excel and other spreadsheet programs, it is easy to see they are not the way forward for asset management or inventory tracking for small businesses. Excel is a powerful program and a must-have for any small business owner for accounting and calculations, but basic spreadsheets simply aren’t meant to be and should not be used for asset or inventory management.

Limitations of Excel

Use the right tool for the right job. Small business owners should take the time to look into dedicated asset management and inventory tracking software and databases.

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How would upgrading to a dedicated asset and inventory management software help your business to track important assets and inventory more accurately?

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Paul Trujillo

Paul Trujillo

Paul Trujillo is a Product Marketing Manager at Informatics specializing in Inventory Warehouse Management and Supply Chain product lines. His nearly 15 years of experience has put him at the forefront of industry technology and developing trends.