Why Excel Isn’t Enough: Understanding the Limitations of Spreadsheets as an ERP 

excel erp

When it comes to enterprise resource planning (ERP), Excel has long been one of the most popular options. However, Excel is not an ERP system, and there are a number of reasons why it is not suitable for businesses that need a comprehensive ERP solution.  

Excel’s limitations as an ERP 

Almost every business has used Microsoft Excel in some capacity. It’s a staple for data analysis and number crunching. But can it do more? Can it replace your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system? In short, no. Here are six reasons why:  

1. Excel is not built for collaboration.  

When it comes to utilizing Excel, its primary use is tailored toward individual work as opposed to collaborative efforts. This implies that there is no way to establish a single data access point managed among multiple users and prohibit unauthorized individuals from accessing it.   

When managing significant projects that require collaborative participation from multiple teams, it’s essential to have a system that offers synchronous and controlled collaboration. Compared to Excel, an ERP offers advanced features that make collaboration more effective and successful. ERPs provide a centralized platform that delivers visibility across all different business functions, enabling teams to optimize their workflows and avoid duplication of efforts. With features such as real-time updates, task allocation, and centralized document management, ERPs assist teams in working more effectively by improving communication and facilitating seamless workflows. 

2. Data security is a major concern with Excel.  

Data security is a major concern with Excel, as the popular spreadsheet software is vulnerable to tampering and breaches. This is where ERP systems come in, providing a safer and more reliable solution for managing critical business data. ERPs are designed with security in mind, offering access controls, encryption, and other security measures to safeguard sensitive data. In addition, ERPs provide real-time updates and data backups, which can help prevent data loss due to accidents or malicious activities. Compared to Excel, which relies on manual updates and backups, ERPs offer a more secure and reliable platform for businesses to manage critical data. 

3. The reporting capabilities of Excel are limited.  

Excel is a powerful tool for managing and analyzing data, but its reporting capabilities are limited. The software was not designed for reporting, meaning users must rely on workarounds or add-ons to generate comprehensive and effective reports. This can be frustrating for businesses that require detailed and customizable reports to make informed decisions. By contrast, ERPs offer purpose-built modern reporting solutions for creating rich and customizable reports quickly and easily. In addition, ERP solutions provide drag-and-drop interfaces, intuitive visualizations, and other features that make it easy to create impactful reports highlighting key metrics and trends. 

4. Integration with other systems is difficult with Excel.  

Excel is a powerful tool for managing data, but its integration capabilities are limited. Integrating Excel with other systems can be complex and time-consuming, impeding productivity and decision-making. This is especially true for businesses that rely on various disparate systems to manage different aspects of their operations. ERPs are designed to connect different systems quickly and easily. These solutions offer a wide range of pre-built connectors and tools, which can help businesses streamline their operations and gain a complete view of their data. It may be worth considering a dedicated integration solution for businesses that need to integrate Excel with other systems to save time and resources. 

5. Excel does not offer real-time insights.  

Excel was not designed for real-time data analysis, which means that users are often limited to static reports and dashboards. This can be a major impediment for businesses that require dynamic, real-time insights to make informed decisions. On the other hand, modern business intelligence (BI) solutions offer real-time data analysis capabilities using advanced technologies such as in-memory processing and data streaming. These solutions allow businesses to gain real-time insights into key metrics such as sales, profitability, and customer behavior, which can help them stay ahead of the competition. 

6. Excel is not scalable.  

While Excel might be effective for small businesses with limited data volume, it can quickly become unwieldy for larger companies with higher data volumes. Excel has a limit for how much data it can handle, and when businesses outgrow Excel, they can face performance issues and other problems. Excel can become slow or unresponsive when dealing with very large data sets, such as those containing millions of rows or complex calculations. Additionally, Excel has a limit on the number of columns, which is set at 16,384 columns in the latest version of the software. This can be problematic for businesses that need to analyze data across a variety of dimensions. 

Additionally, as businesses grow, they require more robust data management and analysis features, which Excel may not be able to provide. ERP systems are designed to meet the changing needs of businesses, offering features such as inventory management, supply chain management, procurement, finance, project management, customer relationship management, manufacturing, and other business applications. ERPs provide a centralized platform for managing all these applications that improves efficiency, reduces manual effort, and increases productivity. They are also designed to meet industry-specific requirements, such as compliance regulations, quality management, and product traceability, that may be difficult to manage in Excel. 

 Read more: Why Are Businesses Moving Away from Excel to ERP? 


While Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool, it is not built to replace your ERP system. It lacks the features and functionality that make an ERP system so essential for businesses. Excel has several scalability limitations that can impact its effectiveness as a data management and analysis tool. If you’re looking for a way to streamline your business operations and make your data work for you, you need an ERP system. 

Dynamics365 offers all the features that businesses need in an ERP solution and more. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you take your business to the next level. 

More to Read: 

3 Factors that will Impact Your ERP selection 

8 Tips to Use Dynamics 365 Business Central Correctly to Improve Productivity 

Dynamics 365 Benefits: 5 Advantages of Having ERP from Microsoft