CIO Symmetry

May 18 2010   8:04PM GMT

Why using Microsoft Excel in SMB IT makes sense

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

It’s no surprise that many organizations are using Microsoft Excel. Evolving from more than just a simple spreadsheet application, Excel is used for everything from simple project management to business intelligence (BI). “I literally use [Excel] for everything,” said Ray Bhatia, vice president of operations at San Francisco-based search engine marketing firm Demand Local Inc.


“You meet people and you start to talk about work and what you do, and Excel almost always comes up,” Bhatia said. “People say, ‘I love Excel’ — almost guiltily — just after they finish telling you about what they use it for.”

What is everyone using Microsoft Excel for? As I mentioned earlier, project management and BI are often top Excel candidates, but Bhatia said he sees it extend out everywhere.

For example, Bhatia has been using an Excel spreadsheet as an impromptu bug-tracking and logging system. Anything he comes across, or is alerted to, gets prioritized in his Excel spreadsheet.

But, while it’s a quick, cheap way to keep things in order, it won’t work as well for long as the company continues to grow, he said. “Excel can take you a long way,” he said, “but many users, like myself, usually reach a point where they need a more specialized tool.”

It’s not as easy as it sounds to find that tool — especially in small companies — and it’s easy to get lost in all the noise. A lot of the solutions are either too niche — handling one solution well but also requiring yet another tool to log in to and manage — or too broad and include a lot of “stuff” that Bhatia said he just doesn’t need or care to use.

And sorting through all of that is time-consuming and not necessarily worth the effort in the short term, he said.

“In a small business, you need to prioritize and make decisions quickly so you can continue to grow,” he said.”If you’re mulling over a possible solution to a problem that’s not mission critical, you’re wasting your time.”

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