When I check some off-the-shelf software for a task, very often I feel overwhelmed by the number of features. If I want something simpler, I often feel the urge of building my own. Usually I resist.
“Oh, this thing is so complicated! I’ll just do something simple in Excel.” You’ve probably said this to yourself. Then you saw you needed something more, and your Excel became more complicated. If you’re technical enough, or if someone in your staff is technical, at some point you added some VBA. Now your spreadsheet is a large complicated system and your business depends on it.
At this point, the cost of switching to another application is quite large. You need to import the data and train your staff. You probably also need to modify your business processes. These costs are typically much higher than the cost of the new software itself.
If the software you need doesn’t really exist and you decide to hire a developer to turn your Excel into an application, you’re in for a surprise. “We made this Excel ourselves at close to zero cost. How is it possible we need XX thousand to convert it to an application?!”
The answer is that the “close to zero cost” of your Excel is an illusion. You probably spent a few hours when you first created it. The second day you spent 20 minutes on some improvement. And so on. It’s hard to grasp the amount of functionality a home-grown spreadsheet can acquire in a couple of years, and the amount of work that has gone into it little by little. It’s also hard to grasp the amount of work software development needs. The Census Crunch breakdown can give you an idea.
“Oh, this thing is so complicated! I’ll just do something simple in Excel.” When you say that, it is important to realize that someone has already been there and done that. Their spreadsheet grew and grew. The complicated thing you’re looking at is the result of this process, and it’s where you’ll be in a couple of years anyway. This is something you need to take into account before going on to do something simple in Excel.