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Why spreadsheets don't cut it for enterprise software evaluations

Chris Doig | Aug. 21, 2015
Is your evaluation spreadsheet tying you up in knots? See why spreadsheets don’t deliver when evaluating enterprise software.

Audit trails

With spreadsheets, it is difficult to see who made changes. While you can track versions of a spreadsheet, there is no audit trail of individual changes to show who did what.

Error checking

Because spreadsheets are so manual, it is very easy for errors to creep in. All error checking must be manually coded, which is where the spreadsheet morphs into a fully blown programming project. Usually the person responsible for the software evaluation ends up doing this work, which makes the evaluation project take even longer.

Progress tracking

Enterprise evaluations are a lot of work that sometimes never seems to end. Spreadsheets have no tools built in to track progress, making these projects even more difficult to manage.


The total cost of ownership of enterprise software runs into many millions. When selecting that software your goal is to maximize the return on the investment. That means finding the software best matched to your organization’s particular needs. While spreadsheets are tremendously useful for some kinds of problems, evaluating enterprise software does not play to their strengths. They are too manual, and simply don’t scale up to large evaluations. Using spreadsheets for enterprise evaluations takes an already large project and adds another layer of work and risk. Your choices are:

  1. Plough through the work using a spreadsheet and hope that sheer effort identifies the best-fit software.
  2. Realize how much work there is, take shortcuts and hope for the best.
  3. Find an application specifically designed for evaluating enterprise software.

If you select the third option, you may consider requirements management systems. While they excel at requirements management, they are optimized for software development and lack the features needed to evaluate and compare software products. There are cloud based RFP or procurement systems. While very usable, they tend to be optimized for the RFP process. Since we could not find an application tailored for enterprise software evaluation & selection, we developed our own which we use in our consulting practice. To help others solve this same software selection problem we have made our application available at no cost.

Any new enterprise software project is a significant opportunity for a company to improve. To make the most of this opportunity, the real needs of the company must be discovered. Then the software that best meets those needs must be identified. In addition to selecting the software, the evaluation process should also provide significant input to the implementation. Spreadsheets simply don't cut it anymore - it's time to use tools designed for the job.


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