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July 05, 2017

Unbundle your Excel into a Customized App


It has been argued that the stripped-down online community posting site Craigslist has given rise to numerous services that are now part of the sharing economy. The Vacation Rentals section grew into Airbnb, the arts + crafts sales page became Etsy, and services like LegalZoom, Redfin and more have all been “unbundled” from the simple categories found on Craigslist.

In a recent blog post, Tomasz Tunguz, a partner at Redpoint and co-author of the book, Winning with Data, projected that this same “unbundling” will likely happen with Microsoft Excel.

As Tunguz estimates, with approximately 300 million users around the world, Excel has the most widely used tool and software to get things done.

People at all different levels use Excel to create task lists, manage customers, create waterfall charts, exchange data, manage projects and much more. One reason Excel has been so widely adopted is that it can be used for simple lists and calculations, but add a few rows, plug in some functions and pretty soon you can have a tool for automated data analysis.

At a certain point, though, even a highly skilled Excel user will find the program a bit clunky and cumbersome. Their needs are too specific for a broad program like Excel. However, What many people involved in the day-to-day business operations — though not necessarily IT — are surprised to learn, is that many of the specific apps they would use for their particular area are not radically new, nor are they groundbreaking inventions. In many cases, they are unbundled from Excel.

For example, here are four types of apps that have their origins in Excel.

  • Project Management: Streamline projects, tasks and deadlines in a mobile app instead of a cumbersome spreadsheet.
  • Inspections: Instead of a clipboard, capture detailed data like GPS locations, times, duration, images, and make automatic calculations from a mobile device.
  • Customer Information Capture: Collect information from customers at the point of sale. This can streamline processes, making you more efficient and thorough.
  • Inventory Management: Information on your inventory probably already lives in spreadsheets, providing an ideal source of data for a mobile app that uses bar code scanning.CreateAppsFromSpreadSheet

Tunguz notes that unbundling usually happens with medium-sized businesses, after a company reaches a certain size with teams and divisions that require greater control and more specialized software. In many cases, this prompts an organization to dedicate resources to developing software that is catered to their needs.

Essentially, Excel is a starting block from which organizations and software developers create more streamlined programs for specific workflows. If a company doesn’t have the IT resources to develop their own “unbundled” software, there are a few of options to start the process. Some businesses will try off-the-shelf software and adapt their processes in a way that allows them to get the full range of benefits from the software. Other businesses that need their software to be specifically tailored for their unique needs will develop their own apps.

Whether you work in sourcing, sales, or logistics, the app you need to meet your specific needs could be waiting to be unbundled from the Excel sheet you currently use.

Visit AppSheet's sample app page to learn more about how you could unbundle your excel. Other posts you might find useful:


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