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Purchasing in Excel: The Longest Shortcut You’ll Ever Take

Some purchasing challenges span industries, and there is no greater example of this than the desire to ‘just’ continue purchasing in Excel. We get a feeling of comfort when using familiar spreadsheets, especially when they are of our own creation. Every detail, from the layout to the font, is in perfect alignment with how each of us thinks.

At the same time, we know we’re not supposed to use spreadsheets… It’s just so tempting, and the list of reasons not to use Excel to send purchase details to a supplier seem far less pressing than all of the other tasks on our long to-do list.

The reality is that saving a minute now could cost you a lot of time down the road – not to mention lead to confusion in the supply chain and problems with inventory. Think of purchasing in Excel as the longest shortcut you’ll ever take – especially if something changes (and something always does).

Here are a few reminders of why making purchases through a centralized platform is the right path to take:

You won’t lose time tracking down ‘the latest version’

Once you send off a spreadsheet, presumably via email, it is officially broken off from all of your company’s data and ordering processes. If anything needs to be changed, whether because of a typo or a change in production plans, it’s very hard to know whether you and the supplier are looking at the same version of the file. You also can’t assume your file will only land in on one desk at the supplier. Once the order is out there in Excel, it’s out there, possibly preventing you from getting what you need when you need it. If everyone is looking in the same place for order details, the most up to date information stays front and center, no matter how many changes need to be made.

You can avoid the email vortex

Despite how reliable and trackable they seem, emails are only a little better than throwing an order over the wall and assuming it has been caught. What if your point of contact is on vacation, has left the company, or no longer works in the same department? How much of a delay might that insert into your order and delivery timeline? And that assumes the spreadsheet is ever redirected or resolved. Centralized access to order details via a purchase order (PO) management system allows anyone at the supplier with responsibility for filling POs – even if only temporarily – to access your purchase details quickly and easily.

Making smooth transitions possible

When we make seemingly inconsequential decisions about ‘little’ things like using the purchasing system in place versus firing off an Excel spreadsheet, we are only thinking of today. What will happen when someone else takes over the supplier relationship? Wading through emails or a shared drive is no way to review purchase history, and if your replacement decides to create a spreadsheet of their own, there will likely be a bumpy transition – both for suppliers and for the consumers of their products and services at your company. A central source of purchasing truth, one that transcends individual views and aligns a purchase made today with all of the ones that preceded it, can make transitions smoother for everyone involved.

Anyone with purchasing responsibility fully understands the importance of cost. In the case of purchasing via Excel, the costs can be very high. They are measured in dollars, but also time and frustration. Considering the spreadsheet shortcut as an option will lead you down a long, costly path – if not today, then certainly tomorrow.

1 comment on “Purchasing in Excel: The Longest Shortcut You’ll Ever Take

  1. MarkSindone
    July 25, 2018

    For every application there is out there in the market today, it is only towards our own benefit if we were to take advantage of each and every single one of them. However, regardless of their capabilities, they still have their flaws. We have to carefully consider how are they going to benefit us and if that impact is worth their usage. If in time we are going to suffer losses, then we might as well drop the idea.

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