Blog: Winning Formula for Pitches

8 Reasons Why Excel is a Poor Choice for a Law Firm Experience Database

Author: Ryan Gerhardy

Excel is a very good tool for an individual to enter information to complete a single task. For instance, Excel is my number one choice when preparing a monthly household budget but is not appropriate for ten or more users to enter sensitive information to distribute to colleagues to complete workflows and tasks. If you are using Excel to organize your firm’s valuable deal and experience data, here are eight reasons why you should reconsider that choice.

  1. Single permission access. It is difficult to establish user access and control permissions in Excel. For a distributed professional team this causes problems, some of which may be irreversible. For instance, Excel may not protect against a user that mistakenly overwrite data or accesses sensitive information they should not. In contrast, permission-based databases display only relevant information to a user based on their permission access as to limit their ability to influence the data used by their colleagues and as not to confuse them by providing tools to perform jobs outside of their responsibility.
  2. Inconsistent data entry. Excel databases suffer from field creep. For example, when a user cannot find an industry that they consider appropriate, they create a new industry. This level of inconsistency between records produces data that is not useful to perform the analytical jobs it was intended for.
  3. Pivot table & filters gone amok. When was the last time you used a pivot table in Excel? Excel does not allow records to be easily queried and segmented. Users can apply a filter, or A to Z ordering, or a pivot table but these functions can result in data duplication and an unlimited number of permutations when trying to create a multi-variable query.
  4. Is this the Master copy? Nothing is more frustrating than trying to open a shared file and be presented with the following pop-up error message “ is currently in this document. Click here to open a read-only copy”. This message is displayed because Excel does not allow real-time access to data or version control to allow display and edit privileges to information that is not currently being edited.
  5. Limited to characters. Excel stores data, not information. Information is not just characters (text, numbers, and symbols). A strong database should provide layers of information allowing users to deep-dive into a record to find unstructured content–accompanying images, documents, and real-time connections to outside data sources.
  6. Storage and access. An Excel spreadsheet is a living document and it must be stored somewhere, typically on a shared folder within a file server. Maintaining ongoing access to a “Master copy” for a distributed team requires management of file permissions, manual placement of protocols between divisions, and ongoing deny/approve permission requests. Excel does not have administrative controls to limit who can see data, what data they can see, and how they can use it.
  7. Excel is not completely secure. An excel spreadsheet can be easily transmitted or stored outside of the organization. Client transaction data is highly confidential and should be treated carelessly every time it is accessed and transmitted. 
  8. Users hate using Excel as database! For all of the above reasons and more user engagement is 61% lower when using an Excel database compared to a web-based relational database.  A product that streamlines permissions and scales to accommodate large teams is substantially more enjoyable and your team demonstrates this by using it more often, to better serve clients and the organization.