Welcome to [Excel] Hell

Most firms are likely stuck in Phase 2: Excel Hell in at least one domain of procurement digital maturity.

We previously called Phase 2 “digitizing,” but knew ‘Excel Hell’ succinctly explains what we’re describing even better. I

n most procurement domains, Phase Two firms have moved most processes out of the Stone Age time where information was mostly stored on paper and nobody knew where to find key documents, due dates, or compliance certificates.

Almost nothing is automated or integrated in Excel Hell. 

Information is manually inputted from a variety of sources and updates don’t trigger updates or other processes. The spreadsheets often break, and you likely struggle with version control when a new file must be created. Countless hours are spend debugging equations and re-entering data.

At this stage of digital development, there are only the beginnings of software-controlled usage rights and workflow. Either too many or too few, people can see confidential information that is unrelated to their own tasks because the cloud or network software that lets the spreadsheets be shared was never built for how it’s being used. The same is true of other files and documents not stored in spreadsheets.

The Transition to Phase Three: Integrating

The good news is that the most important information has been digitized.

Transitioning to Integrating is the first step towards having finely-tuned access controls, making workflows more efficient, having fewer things ‘get lost in the cracks,’ reducing needless re-entry of data, and having an update made in one spreadsheet show up on other spreadsheets.

Successfully transitioning into Phase Three puts you on a path to seeing even more of these efficiencies and eventual automation of some processes.

The transition to Phase Three usually begins by ‘rationalizing’ and systemization data across all of the files used.

This is a precursor step to moving information into a centralized database system that can communicate with portals, dashboards, and other enterprise system platforms.

While manual input and authorizations still found Phase Three, the stages at various processes when this happens drops dramatically.

Negotiations and Ordering:

Fewer bids are sent by email or email in stage due to the introduction of a vendor portal and/or other enterprise resource planning (ERP) software platforms.

Data will likely be manually entered to and from these platforms until Stage 4, but different pieces of software are starting to talk to each other, and physical signatures are no longer required to authorize an order.

VBA integrates spreadsheets with each other and the ERP system such that data is automatically updated throughout most of the system upon entry.

Payments and authorizations:

Data is manually entered into ERP systems instead of spreadsheets.

Compliance verification:

Transitioning to Phase Three: Integrating involves moving files stored on paper or in file systems into a secure access-controlled centralized database via an ERP software application.

Unfortunately, there won’t be a software-enforced workflow or reminders of upcoming certification expirations or deadlines until Phase Four: Automating. Data is still manually entered.


 All current and historical production & inspection information is moved from spreadsheets and other files to a software database. This allows for automated report generation and makes it easy for managers to monitor the status of production runs.

However, at this phase all information must be manually entered into the database, meaning some information may be out of date or inaccurate.


Transition from spreadsheets for tracking and data storage to warehouse management systems (WMS), transportation management systems (TMS), and/or other ERP software platforms to manage inventory information.

However, inventory email must be manually entered, and there is not deep/real-time integration between systems.

"We were referred to Visichain by a few people including someone high up at Goldman Sachs. ​Once I got in touch with Visichain, they quickly understood our problem. We gave them one process to fix as a trial: they were able to get the process off excel in 30-days. They moved forward with no disruption to our business processes. Then we continued to engage Visichain and now have them integrating all our systems -- a challenge another major consultancy failed at and Visichain has succeeded with. They are really responsive to all of our feedback and adjusted to our demands.

​CIO, Top 10 European Retailer

​Custom​er Success

​Hong Kong Based Purchasing Office of Major Global Retailer

The company faced an insurmountable problem with their supply chain processes because email and excel were being used to manage thousands of suppliers​...

​Confidence in data was a nightmare​...

"We now have​ thousands of factories and supplier relationships transacting billions a year in trade operating on the system Visichain built for us."