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Emily Rogers
July 18, 2016

Why Your Spreadsheet Would Be Better as an App

Has your spreadsheet reached its limit? Is it becoming unwieldy or being pulled in too many directions? Spreadsheets are wondrously useful tools. They track tasks, record activities, manage ordering, organise teams, track stock levels, list features, add expenses and hold all the complex data that doesn’t fit anywhere else. But sometimes you need a little more. If your spreadsheet is supporting a growing team and increasingly complex data requirements, it might be time to transform it into an app.

Apps are Purpose Driven

Spreadsheets serve multiple useful and practical purposes. Your product features spreadsheet might have all the details of every product you stock, but that can become unwieldy when you just need a quick price check. When you want to do one thing really well, an app can become a purpose-driven interface. Perhaps you want floor staff to quickly find product images for re-ordering or show demo videos to customers on the floor.  Instead of trawling through the whole spreadsheet you can develop a purpose-driven app like this product catalog app to guide them directly to the content they need. While spreadsheets can be everything to everyone, sometimes a simple app with a clearly-defined purpose can be a more effective way to get from point A to point B.

Supercharge Collaboration

Cloud-based spreadsheets are great when the whole team needs access to data. Sometimes giving everyone access to edit and review the data is enough, but what if your collaboration needs grow or become more complex?  An app can automate the steps to simplify a specific process, like updating a team of doctors about the day’s surgical schedule..  Perhaps the app could trigger an alert when content changes.  An email to the supply team when stock runs down, or an alert to the volunteer coordinator if someone pulls out of tomorrow’s event. As teams grow, they become increasingly reliant on access to the right data.  An app that supports your existing workflows and streamlines communication could supercharge your team’s productivity and effectiveness.

Simplify Content Discovery

Apps can streamline navigation to the most important and relevant content in your spreadsheet.  Instead of trawling through rows and columns of data, you can create a simple user experience in an app to achieve a very specific outcome.  Even if you created the spreadsheet and know it backwards, an app can surface the content you need more quickly and effectively. When your spreadsheet needs to reach a wider audience, it’s even more important to simplify content discovery. This app helps members of a marketing team access case studies in a single click, even when they’re offline. An app with clearly defined purpose and outcome can make it easy for everyone in the team to access the right information for the job. 

Your Data Just Got More Beautiful

Spreadsheets don’t always make the best use of visual elements. If you have photos, designs, images or videos in your spreadsheets you might benefit from an app interface.  Visual appeal is especially important if your customers or important stakeholders need  access. An app can incorporate your branding and be easier on the eye, but it can also improve navigation and content discovery. There are a variety of ways to make your data more visually appealing.  Apps can display images in a gallery and make it easier to browse and find the content you need. Apps can also enable direct image capture from a smartphone. For example, product returns could be quickly recorded along with a picture of the faulty part.

A Picture (and a Map) is Worth 1000 Words

Do you have a spreadsheet that tracks or records physical locations? You might enter a town name, capture a lat/long or use text to describe buildings and structures.  You may even want to track the precise location of wildlife or native flora like this nature enthusiast in Switzerland. Collection of location data can be automated using GPS in an app to automatically record a precise location. This is a more accurate and convenient way to manage location tracking, overcomes recording errors and simplifies the data entry process. If someone is on site recording a home inspection or site inventory, their location can be picked up automatically and displayed visually on a map. Apps can be designed around maps to help team members plan site visits, coordinate inspections or organise client meetings.

Apps Can Feed Your Spreadsheet

While you may want many people to contribute to the data you track in a spreadsheet, it’s not always practical to give everyone access. If some of the data is confidential, or there’s a risk of people editing the wrong content, it could make sense to collect inputs using an app.  Perhaps you maintain an employee spreadsheet to track hours, rates and annual leave. Instead of manually entering annual leave into the spreadsheet, employees could submit their leave dates via an app that populates the spreadsheet. The app could even alert supervisors to approve a leave request and sync the app update back to the spreadsheet.

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