You have Excel already installed on your laptop, a bookeeper who might put together a few numbers, then why not? Excel functions can not be that complicated, right?
I have been doing reports for a few companies by now and I have seen how extensively Excel is used even for very complex reports ... and I have seen how many mistakes those reports have, month after month.
The first step is always to create a template for a given month. The report for that month is generated and tested. The second step happens the next month and consists of adapting the previous report to the current data. Usually this report (and the next ones to come) does not get tested. We just rely on the hope that what has worked before might work this month as well.
However, here are the most common errors that can happen.
1. This month's data is more than last month's data.
Last month's excel sheet does not process all the rows. The last rows will then be ignored in the final result.
2. We copy the data into the template excel sheet by "cut and paste".
Something goes wrong in the cut process and we get the wrong/incomplete set of input data.
3. We need to expand the rows with the desired functionalities.
By "Cut and Paste" we might paste the wrong functionality in the wrong place. By drag and drop we might start from the wrong row and all subsequent rows will contain the wrong functionalities.
4. I am sure you can be creative enough to think/execute more errors in an Excel Sheet.
There is no warning for any of these mistakes. So you will generate a perfectly working reports ... just with the wrong numbers in it!!!! The problem of Excel is that it is not a program, which means it does not warn you when functionalities change or when the data exceed the sheet's capacity.
Even without going for a dedicated program, there are now available many click-clack reporting solutions, click-clack meaning that a reporting tool can be built by drag and drop and a minimum knowledge of the programming language.
Here are some of the most commonly used of these click-clack reporting solutions:
- Report Viewer in .NET
- Crystal Reports
- Crystal Clear
- Jasper Reports
- BIRT for Java
- and many others