Paul Wherly

11 Reasons to start using a database instead of Excel and Word

EXCELWORDOne of the most common questions I am asked is why exactly should I replace my spreadsheets with a central database. Here are 10 good reasons:-

1.      Sharing information

With a spreadsheet (or even word document), only one person can access the data at any one time. However with a central database, more than one person can look at the data simultaneously

2.      Elimination of multiple data entry

Ever wondered just how much time you waste by copying and pasting data between documents?  With a central database, as all data is stored centrally, there is no need to copy data – saving you all this time

3.      Improved data quality and consistency

As all data is stored in one place, it means that everybody uses the same data rather than different variants e.g different spellings for somebody’s address

4.      Effective version control

One of the problems that I see regularly in organisations is that people get confused between various versions of documents.  Using a well built database, it means that everybody can easily see the latest version of a document

5.      More robust security

In many companies, there is a need to keep certain data restricted, whilst other data can be readily shared.  These sort of privileges can be tricky to maintain – especially when there several hundred documents. In a database, every user has their own logon credentials meaning that it is far easier to manage access rights to information.

6.      Better information, faster

With a database it is easy to set up a dashboard to highlight potential problems in the business e.g any deadlines or payments that are overdue. With a spreadsheet or word structure, these can be difficult to set up and even more difficult to maintain.

7.      Mobile devices

With a bit of thought, a database can be designed so that it fits neatly onto a mobile phone or tablet. Further, information can be exchanged in real time between the database and the mobile device – so your mobile workforce can see up to date information in real time

8.      Faster reporting

Management need accurate information to make decisions more effectively. Often the data for this comes from several sources  meaning that it takes time to assemble. With a database, the report production can be automated – saving time.

9.      Drill down capability

With an excel spreadsheet, if we wanted to drill down e.g : see all the orders placed by a given customer or all the items that on an order, then it is not easy to present this information.  However, in a database you can achieve this functionality very easily.

10. More sophisticated layouts

In an excel spreadsheet you can only place information in specific cells or rows. However, with a database it can be placed in a manner that you choose, meaning that you can bring together data in a much more meaningful manner.

11. Click through capability

With a database, you can click on a piece of data and follow it through easily e.g:-

  • Click on a customer and see all his orders
  • Select one order and see what items have been purchased in an order
  • Take one item and get a description of the item
  • Identify other orders that contain this item – across all customers
  • Get reports about when and how often this item is purchased
  • Use this information to obtain better deals with your suppliers  – increasing profitability 

About the author

This blog was written by Kapil Kapur who has been developing bespoke business intelligence systems for over 15 years. He specialises in using the database platform Filemaker Pro as well as Excel spreadsheets.

He can be contacted via email on and more information   can be obtained from his website

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