Data is arguably the most important element for business success, but the degree that companies are able to collect, manipulate, analyze and ultimately make use of that data varies enormously. There are a number of reasons companies under-leverage their data, but here we are focusing on one of the most common reasons, and that has to do with the extensive use of Excel typical with most companies. While valuable data is often collected in spreadsheets, the follow-on steps of manipulation and analysis leading to actionable decision making does not.
To be usable, data must be housed in a central location, or at least be centrally accessible. Excel, by design, is a distributed end-user tool, so immediately presents the first barrier — spreadsheets are dispersed across an enterprise, often without any central visibility. Secondly, even if these spreadsheets were rigorously managed and their data aggregated into a single, central file, Excel lacks both the necessary database functionality and scalability needed for efficient manipulation and analysis. The software simply wasn’t built to act as a searchable database.
One of the many benefits of EASA is its ability to add full relational database functionality to your existing spreadsheet by converting it into a web app. Critically, EASA is a low-code platform that eliminates the need for specialized database skills and experience as well as any software programming. The result is all the data normally saved within end-user spreadsheets is now consolidated and stored within a single, central relational database, utilizing all of the advantages of using these databases while still enabling you to make use of your original Excel file. One of these functions is creating a searchable database, which can be incredibly helpful for businesses.
A searchable database is not just a list of data — it is an organized collection of records that can be sorted and retrieved based on a query. In other words, when you determine what field you’d like to view, the database will show you the relevant information. For example, if your searchable database contains your employee records — their name, date of birth, department, start date, and salary — you should be able to search for someone’s name so that the database pulls out the rest of the information stored for that employee.
While Excel is not a searchable database, a spreadsheet can be used with EASA to create one in three simple steps that involve no coding whatsoever:
Your spreadsheets may contain lots of different pieces of information. EASA is a powerful tool, but it’s not a mind reader. The first step, then, is to let the software know what data you want to save into your searchable database. This is achieved by defining Named Ranges within Excel itself — it’s a simple way to flag the cells which contain data that you would like to be searchable. To use our previous example, if you want to create a searchable database of your employees, you’d want to mark the relevant information and then label them using Named Ranges such as ‘name’, ‘date of birth’ and so on.
Now it’s time to define what the users will actually see. Usually, it’s possible to use EASA’s Excel Wizard to automatically create a professional-looking web app that resembles the layout of your original spreadsheet. But that’s not a requirement — with EASA, the world is your oyster, and if you want to create a web app that looks nothing like your existing spreadsheet, the software provides options to enable that.
Finally, we need to add a landing page to your app. This is where users will be able to search and filter saved data and optionally select cases that have been previously saved. Gone are the days of opening tens or even hundreds of versions of a spreadsheet to find the one you wanted to open. Windows File Manager, which lets you see filenames and save dates, but not the data inside, will become obsolete using EASA. However, it doesn’t end there! Although your data is generated by your original spreadsheet, placing it into EASA, deploying it as an app, and saving instances to a database gives you the opportunity to use it in ways you couldn’t have in Excel. For example, you can choose to present your data in visual ways using programs like Tableau.
EASA allows you to create much more than just a searchable database, though. By converting your spreadsheet into a web app, you can enjoy many other benefits and solutions to some of Excel’s main faults. Both employees and clients using your spreadsheets would be able to do so directly from their browser without having Excel installed on their computer, eliminating version incompatibility. What’s more, it means protecting your IP, avoiding people changing important information, and always knowing you’re using the correct version of your spreadsheet.
So, who said you couldn’t have your cake and eat it? Creating a searchable database app directly from your Excel file is completely possible. Contact us to learn more about how EASA can work for your company.