Spreadsheets vs Databases – Round 2: Task Automation

Continuing our examination of which is more useful in the office, spreadsheets or databases, we look at task automation.One of the benefits of computers in the modern workplace is that they can automate many dull, repetitive tasks and complete them in seconds.  This makes a business more productive and efficient and allows staff to concentrate on creative, value-adding activities.

So, which one is better at it, spreadsheets or databases?

Round 2: Task Automation


task-not-automatedI think we have probably all used spreadsheets to do some calculations at some point, perhaps adding up a column of numbers or something like that.  So, Excel can do some calculation for simple things like that.  How does it fair with more complex things like, printing out a payment reminder?  How about printing out all your payment reminders?  I realise that is a lot more complicated than just adding up some numbers, but it is a real day-to-day task which is important but time-consuming.  Well, with Excel we can automate things a bit more than just doing sums by using macros.  These allow you to program and manipulate data within a spreadsheet and with other sources, for instance, databases.

One of the problems with automating tasks using spreadsheets is that it is too easy for mistakes to happen.  If you put any of the values the macro needs to perform the task in the wrong cell, then it either gives you the wrong answer or just stops altogether.  You may not know that there has been a problem and you are basing business decisions on incorrect information.  This is a result of the data not being stored in relational tables the way a database does.


task-automationDatabases hold data in a structured way.  This is the basis needed for automating tasks, because the data is stored in a predictable and easily retrievable way.  Also, users are not exposed to the code so they can not accidentally make alterations to the database programming as can happen with spreadsheets.

Alterations to the data can also be much more easily and precisely controlled.  A database can store a great deal more data so more tasks can be automated and the can complete quite complex tasks automatically.  The next time you buy something online and you get a tracking number which you can track through the internet, that is all carried out by databases.  The online shop you made your purchase on was based on a database.  They had approached custom software development companies, such as Working Data, to help them with bespoke database development.


Databases 2 :  Spreadsheets 0

This was an easy round to score.  Databases are by their very nature ideal at automating and repeating tasks.  They hold the data in a structured way and have a greater capacity for that data to be used to provide feedback to the business.

Other articles you may find interesting:

  1. How To Get Your Team On The Same Page
  2. 7 Reasons Your Team Should Drop Spreadsheets
  3. Spreadsheets vs Databases – Round 1: Multi-User

To find out more about Working Data and how we can help your business become more productive, efficient and creative, contact us.

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