So I had a funny experience the other day that I thought I’d share. In a nutshell, I was in a meeting where we were talking about how to track some budgeted expenses that we’re expecting in upcoming months. Typically the answer has always been, “let’s just create a QuickBase to track it”, but no…not this time. This time the response was, “let’s put it in Excel”. It totally threw me. Why did it throw me?
First, to understand my reaction you need to know that Intuit uses QuickBase for just about everything. There are roughly 7,000 employees and in any given month over 10,000 unique people access approximately 7,500 unique QuickBase applications “owned by Intuit”. The applications used range from the office-wide “RSVP for the holiday party” to the mission critical SOX compliance, CRM, IT resource planning and general project management applications. So it isn’t surprising that most people’s knee-jerk reaction to most operational challenges is “we should start a QuickBase for this”. That’s what I’m used to.
Second, I’m obviously totally biased towards QuickBase and generally don’t even imagine using Excel for anything other than extreme analytics projects I’m doing on my own. So the thought of using Excel to track expenses didn’t immediately make sense to me, but upon further reflection I realized it was the right thing.
Third, it made me realize I hadn’t recently thought through when it does / doesn’t make sense to use Excel vs. QuickBase. While I am biased towards QuickBase, I’m also not naïve and I do get that Excel is the better tool in certain situations…it’s just that the emotional first reaction is towards QuickBase. I must admit, it’s also a bit of an ego thing for me because I love having the challenge to make QuickBase do something really hard.
So, after a few minutes of thought I realized that it does make sense to use Excel in these situations:
- If only one person is responsible for maintaining the information and sharing the information isn’t that critical. Or, if sharing with others is important, it will need to be in a way where security on subsets of the information isn’t that important.
- If there’s tons of “modeling” required (e.g. being able to make assumptions and have complex calculations). For example, if there’s financial analysis required (aka…you need the advanced functions) Excel is definitely better.
- If need a great deal of charting flexibility.
Not a big deal, but I figured I’d share the experience because I am constantly asked if it makes sense to build a QuickBase and I am now going to consciously recommend Excel…but only if the above criteria are met :->.