Finally, An Answer To Why Procurement Professionals Still Use Spreadsheets

Posted on June 14, 2022


At the end of May, I wrote a post titled “Why do procurement professionals continue to use spreadsheets?”

I know the ubiquity of this question is second only to the wistful “when will procurement get a seat at the table?” Of course, that is a long discussion for another day.

Regarding spreadsheets, I remember when the first one – VisiCalc, took the business world by storm. It was a fantastic breakthrough application that quite frankly legitimized the personal computer beyond build-your-own, hobbyist enthusiasm. But that was way, way back in 1979!

Here we are 43-years later, and similar to the pencil and eraser, spreadsheets continue to exist and dominate the business landscape. If you think about it in the context of the significant technology breakthroughs over the years and the emergence of the new digital age, you have to wonder why? I know I do.

Rather than continue aimlessly wandering in speculative nowhere land, I decided to go out to the community and ask why – why are we still using spreadsheets when there is all this incredible tech out there?

When posing the question, I added a twist by engaging two separate groups: CPOs and the rest of the procurement community. The answers were a bit surprising – but not for the reasons you may think.

General Community

CPO Community

To start, it seems that CPOs and their respective teams are of one mind when it comes to why spreadsheets are still a thing in today’s digital world – and it has little to do with cost.

In each community or group, 69% of those responding to each poll picked “ease of use” and the ability to “share data in a common format” as the one-two reason for using spreadsheets. While this may be a little surprising, for me, the real disconnect is the apparent symmetry of thinking regarding spreadsheets and the results of consecutive yearly surveys in which CPOs lament the lack of skills within their teams to enable them to achieve their strategic objectives. In other words, even though using spreadsheets is convenient, are they “really more efficient” than the new digital technology – including AI? Is the C-Suite to procurement’s frontlines dogged loyalty to 1979 pc tech impeding the move to more efficient 2022 digital tech?

If the answer is yes, then CPO concerns are not necessarily due to a lack of skills, but a failure to take the lead in helping their teams make the transition to the digital age.

“When it comes to digital technology companies will either transform or be transformed.” Kevin Peesker, President, Microsoft Canada

If you think about it, doesn’t today’s technology provide an intuitive, user-friendly interface and streamline the secure sharing of data across the enterprise? If it does, why are we still living in the past, especially given that “less than 5% of all data” that is collected is analyzed (refer to Getting beyond the Twilight Zone of data uncertainty post)?


Posted in: Commentary, PI Poll