Newsroom // Forget the Hype! All You Need Is Excel

Forget the Hype! All You Need Is Excel


There is no question, Excel is truly great! It is ubiquitous, versatile, powerful and not to mention very inexpensive to use in the grand scheme of things. Having also stood the test of time, why would you not use it?

Any new technology system will always be at the mercy of Excel, therefore, most new technologies embrace and integrate the use of Excel spreadsheets to cover up for some of the flaws it does have.

When an over-reliance on Excel creates problems:

As with many solutions, when there are limitations, that are commonly missed through blind spots, it is time to incorporate something new.  

Some inherent challenges of using spreadsheets are:

Collaboration: Collaboration is a key attribute within international development projcts. Relying on the use of Excel can cause numerous issues from difficulties keeping up to date versions to causing unnecessary duplicates and errors within the spreadsheets. 

Lack of Scalability: For a small-scale project Excel can be perfect. However, if you have larger scale project with many different datasets, Excel becomes increasingly ineffective. For large project, Excel is akin to cutting an extremely large field of grass with a pair of scissors, while the scissors are relatively inexpensive and extremely versatile it may be ineffective and inefficient in the long run. With some foresight, choosing a better, more tailored, cost-effective software system may be the solution.

Data Loss and Integrity: Data loss and file corruption is an all too familiar experience for general IT users, the international development context brings about a far greater significance. Localised data susceptible to loss within a spreadsheet brings about project risks and problems. Data integrity is a real issue within Excel. Datasets and cells can fall victim to simple errors through use as well.

After scouring the internet for various blogs and experience pieces, it's apparent that loss or damage to hardware is a clear risk whilst working in the field. Operating from the cloud, (while adversaries will argue connectivity issues from remote locations) creates many safeguards for data loss and saves time wasted for data recovery.


An often overlooked component of using spreadsheets is the aspect of transparency. Excel sheets are susceptible to human error, as are many systems, however, error to dates, schedules and reporting are easily possible and not openly transparent through traditional reporting methods with Excel spreadsheets. Having a robust system that assists in reducing general errors can assist with better transparency and data integrity at the same time. Manipulating data sets intentionally or otherwise can be easily done within Excel. Having a clear log history of files and inputs assists with making a process more transparent when reviewed and audited.

So, in conclusion, spreadsheets are a great tool when viewed independently. When viewed in the context of an entire project and activities, perhaps one is able to see some of its weaknesses and potentially see the need for other systems that can be used as an alternative or in conjunction with spreadsheets.   

Exploring an alternative solution is encouraged and one should not remain entirely within the spreadsheet comfort zone.

Now admittedly this text has been written to be a touch provocative and pokes holes at Excel’s flaws but the perspective here is that if spreadsheets are the only answer there simply would not be a flurry of new technologies and software services for Monitoring & Evaluation emerging which already have extensive experience in international development projects that have been successfully delivered. 


What is SmartMe? 

SmartME is the smart choice for your Development Project. 

Adalia SmartME is a powerful tried and tested comprehensive project management suite to manage international development funds and projects better. 

The online service is built on the principles of Results-Based Management. SmartME has been created with solid IT expertise, with in-depth knowledge and experience specifically on international development projects. 

SmartME enables better management creating great efficiencies thereby creating greater impact.

Get in touch to find out more.