10 Ways SharePoint is Better than Excel

I sometimes reflect on the creators of Excel and wonder if they had any idea what a tool they had created. Far beyond a tool for financial tracking and analysis, Excel has been appropriated for more uses than duct tape or WD-40. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

While Excel helps individual users get a broad variety of jobs done because it’s so flexible; when it comes to collaboration, Excel is the 60% solution that has to be re-imagined when teams need an 80%, 90%, or 100% solution to collaborate and get the job done.

I’m not talking about sharing financial information or analysis with more than 1 person. I’m talking about migrating from the prototyped transaction management tool, asset management tool, contract tracking tool, milestone management tool, or any of the myriad other tools that Excel is used to create partial solutions for. These partial solutions might work for one or two users but they’re poor solutions for groups with 10 or 20 or more users.

So for these reluctant users, here are 10 ways that SharePoint is better than Excel:

  1. Security.  A solution built on SharePoint allows you to use the full, robust security model of SharePoint. You can make the solution available with no security, or setup permissions by user or by group.
  2. Auditability.  Since users must login to SharePoint, their actions can be audited. This is great for SOX compliance, or just compliance in general.
  3. Document linkage.  Many an Excel solution I’ve seen references external documents. Examples include:  loan documents, transaction documents, pictures of assets, contracts, etc. A solution built on SharePoint allows those documents to be stored right along the listing of information, and it allows for linkages from rows to documents.
  4. Collaborative editing.  When more than one person wants to edit an Excel workbook at the same time, that’s a problem. In SharePoint, it’s no big deal to have 2 or 5 or 10 or more people each adding or updating different rows of information.
  5. Workflows.  SharePoint allows you to have custom workflows triggered when changes are made to information. For example, entering in a new transaction might trigger an approval workflow.  Or, updating a certain due date might trigger a reminder to be created that the event is occurring in X number of days.
  6. Custom forms.  SharePoint allows you to use custom input, editing, and viewing forms to make it easy to enter, retrieve, and update information.
  7. Search.  Sure you can fire up the search function in Excel once you have the workbook open, and it works pretty well. But what if you want to get an exact record match when you don’t have the Excel file open? Or want to look for rows as well as documents that match a certain search term? Now you’re talking about leveraging the power of SharePoint.
  8. Personalization.  Want each person to have their own view of information? SharePoint allows for easy personalization. That would be quite the project in Excel.
  9. Mobile viewing.  SharePoint allows Excel documents to be easily presented through Office Web Applications for viewing on tablets, mobile devices, etc. Sure, you can download a big Excel sheet to your iPhone as well, but the experience is not nearly as smooth, especially for large or highly customized or even workbooks with multiple worksheets in them.
  10. You can still work with Excel. Check out my next blog entry on 5 ways you can leverage SharePoint without completely doing away with Excel.

– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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