Why Spreadsheets Are a Poor Choice for Mission-Critical Applications and Workflows

Spreadsheets are a ubiquitous tool in business, with countless uses ranging from accounting to inventory management. However, as data needs become more complex and businesses grow, using spreadsheets as full-fledged multi-user database applications can quickly become chaotic with quickly diminishing returns as scaling spreadsheet data and users is impractical. In this article, we’ll explore the problems that arise when using spreadsheets for mission-critical applications and business workflows. We will discuss how purpose-built database applications can be a much better choice.

What Are Spreadsheets Good For?

At their core, spreadsheets are a table of rows and columns (cells) containing data. They work well for one user (and even a couple of users in a shared Office 365 environment), when there are only a few tables and relatively simple relationships. They’re good for designing and demonstrating processes, prototyping simple and sometimes complex applications, performing calculations, tracking simple data sets, and creating basic charts and graphs. However, when it comes to managing large amounts of data, or data that needs to be shared among multiple users, spreadsheets become cumbersome and error potential goes up.

Problems with Using Spreadsheets for Mission-Critical Applications and Workflows

Complex, highly relational spreadsheets used as multi-user database applications are not particularly scalable. As the amount of data in a spreadsheet grows, it can become slow and difficult to work with. As quantity goes up, quality This is because spreadsheets are designed to be loaded into memory all at once, which can quickly become impractical as the data set grows.

One of the biggest issues with using spreadsheets as multi-user database applications is that they’re not designed for collaboration. While it’s possible to share a spreadsheet with multiple users, there’s no built-in mechanism for managing concurrent access to shared data, building business workflows, or properly validating inputs. Users can and will accidentally overwrite each other’s changes, or overwrite/change formulas, and spreadsheets flying around through email and becoming out of date… sound familiar? PCApps may be able to help you!

Finally, spreadsheets are simply not designed to be used as full-fledged database applications. While they can certainly be used to store and manipulate data, they lack many of the features that make purpose-built database applications so powerful. For example, databases are designed to handle large amounts of data efficiently, using indexing and other techniques to quickly retrieve data when it’s needed. Well-designed applications provide a range of tools for managing data quality, such as data validation rules and constraints.

Benefits of Purpose-Built Database Applications

The answer for many businesses that have been relying on spreadsheets for their data management needs is to switch to a purpose-built database application. While this may seem time-consuming and expensive, it is likely that it is less time consuming and less expensive than the inefficiencies and friction caused by attempting to use spreadsheets in situation unsuited for Excel. And the benefits of using existing spreadsheets as prototypes for database design are generally well worth the effort and provide a positive ROI.

First and foremost, a purpose-built database application will provide much better data management capabilities than a spreadsheet ever could. This includes things like indexing, validation rules, and constraints, all of which help ensure data quality and accuracy. In addition, a purpose-built database application will be much more scalable than a spreadsheet, allowing businesses to handle larger and more complex data sets without sacrificing performance.

Another advantage of using a purpose-built database application is that it will be much easier to collaborate with other users. Most modern database applications include built-in sharing/locking/multi-user features and bring solid security user roles and permissions, that make it easy to control and manage concurrent access to data. We want to prevent data corruption and ensure that everyone is working with the most current and reliable information.

Finally, purpose-built database applications are typically more secure than spreadsheets, with robust security features that help protect against data breaches and other security threats. This is particularly important for mission-critical applications and workflows, where data security is paramount. Applications are built for secure access over the web on simple, easy to use and understand database websites.


While spreadsheets are a useful tool for many basic data management tasks, they simply don’t hold up over time as full-fledged multi-user database applications for mission-critical applications and workflows. By switching to a purpose-built database application, businesses can ensure that their data management needs are being met in a scalable, secure, and efficient way, allowing them to focus on their core business operations with confidence. With all the issues related to spreadsheets highlighted in this article, it’s clear that businesses should consider moving to purpose-built database applications for their mission-critical workflows. The benefits of a well-designed, well-implemented web database application are numerous, and the drawbacks of relying on spreadsheets become challenging over time.


Spreadsheets are useful for basic data management tasks, but they quickly become ungovernable and uncontrollable when used as full-fledged multi-user database applications.

Spreadsheets force collaboration through shared emails, or SharePoint with allowing only a few users, with little control. They lack features, scalability, and many of the tools needed for effective data management.

Purpose-built database applications are often a better choice for mission-critical applications and workflows, providing better data management capabilities, scalability, collaboration features, and security.

Ready to Make the Switch?

If you’re ready to explore taking your current spreadsheets and using it as a template to build a purpose-built database application, PCApps is here to show you the way. Let us help you move forward with your business information needs. From simple desktop applications to cloud-based solutions, we are happy to help. It’s important to take the time to evaluate your options carefully and choose a solution that fits your business requirements with trusted advisors with decades of experience.

In conclusion, it’s clear that spreadsheets are a poor choice for mission-critical applications and workflows. By switching to a purpose-built database application, businesses can ensure that their data management needs are being met in a scalable, secure, and efficient way. Don’t let your business operations suffer from the limitations of spreadsheets – make the switch today!

For more information, contact us today with your information problems using the form below! The call is free, and we’re happy to help!

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