Why are so many large companies still using Excel for their fundamental sustainability data collection and analysis? The answer is … because they can. Excel is relatively easy to use and everyone has it. So it’s great for special projects and doing something like an analysis or chart quickly. Sustainability seems well past just being a “special project”.
Footprinter doesn’t always get to work directly with clients, but we have seen our share of home grown spreadsheet tools. Here is a list of the problems we’ve seen and heard clients encounter:
- Spreadsheet UI inhibits engagement – It’s hard to beat a modern browser and the toolkits available for developing compelling and easy-to-use interfaces. Footprinter has a fondness for Twitter’s Bootstrap.
- Adding up data from lots of spreadsheets is hard work – One client called us because she had 300 spreadsheets in her inbox. That doesn’t sound like fun. Spreadsheets aren’t databases.
- Errors can be hard to find and fix – In a spreadsheet that had been in use for some time, we found an error in a formula that under represented a part of the LCA by a factor of 1,000 (you guessed it … a unit conversion problem between tonnes and kgs).
- Ad hoc analysis is difficult – Even simple analysis can be challenging and can be an additional source of errors. We’ve seen clients literally re-enter data manually into a master spreadsheet.
- Spreadsheets are cumbersome for sharing and team work – Sustainability spreadsheets tends to be quite big as they carry around all the factor libraries and models. Getting some quick help or clarification can take time with emails and docs going back and forth.