It never fails to amaze me how many seed businesses are reliant on spreadsheets to run their seed production and processing operations. Spreadsheets are great, flexible and certainly have a place in the world for doing the things spreadsheets are good at doing — like formatting charts and graphs, ad-hoc analysis, and creating simple models — but using them for things they are not intended for could be damaging.

Spreadsheets fall short in the following areas:

Reporting: Sorting through multiple spreadsheets and countless numbers and transactions to compile the data can be confusing and very, very time consuming. To run a business successfully you need to have full control of your data.

Accuracy: Spreadsheets do not standardize processes across the business, so everyone does their own thing in their own way. This means that the data is inaccurate, out of date and not uniform with other data in other spreadsheets.

Accessibility: Different people need access to reports and data at any given moment. Having quick, easy access to data is the only way to keep the business running smoothly. If that data is in disparate spreadsheets in different places, this can be disruptive to processes and ultimately cost money.

Productivity: How much time do the people using these spreadsheets spend tracking and fixing issues? A study recently showed that regular ‘spreadsheet’ users were spending up to 18 hours per month doing just that. That’s 18 hours per month spent doing non-productive activity.

Security & data integrity: Where are these companies keeping their spreadsheets? On a server? On someone’s laptop? What if you lose the spreadsheet and don’t have a back-up system in place? And how do you know you are updating the latest version of the spreadsheet? Which version of the spreadsheet do you look in to get a single version of the truth?

Regulatory requirements: Seed companies are audited regularly to ensure that they are recording the information adequately. If the spreadsheets cannot be relied on for accuracy, this is a major risk and should be of huge concern to a seed business.

The only real way to have accurate and reliable data for reporting and running efficient processes in a business is to invest in a centralized and integrated system. An integrated system enables you to free people from the drudgery of wrestling with spreadsheets and allow them to focus on the important and productive things that would help to grow the business profitably.

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