Death by 1,000 spreadsheets!

If you asked a room of cannabis operators what tool they use to manage their day-to-day, I bet a majority would say Excel or Google Sheets.

Why? Undoubtedly, Excel and Google Sheets are both very popular tools for two reasons:

  1. Ease of use; and
  2. Affordability.

But both tools are only as effective as the limits of the user and the organization’s capacity. As one operator said recently, “we can’t simply bend Excel to our whims”.

As well as managing multiple spreadsheets, there is an issue with a lack of visibility across data points in different sheets, and getting access to more complex sheets can become a roadblock for some. It raises the question whether Excel is the right tool for cannabis operators to manage their production.

Operators tend to manage their frustrations and find ways to manage the problem until it becomes too overwhelming and complex.

At what stage does this type of tool stop serving the operator? While Excel may seem like an accessible and straightforward solution, it presents a host of significant potential problems that could make or break a business, especially early stage companies and those scaling.

One of the most critical issues with using Excel as a management tool is the high probability of data input error. This can occur during manual data entry. Even minor mistakes, such as misreporting the quantity of a particular cannabis product can lead to compliance issues and financial losses. The thing is, humans are prone to making mistakes when manually inputting a lot of information at once. Consistent errors like this and the lack of time to keep a standardised system without checks and balances in place can become problematic. Errors accumulate over time, eventually making the management system unsalvageable and potentially damaging to the business's bottom line and brand.

Another significant limitation of Excel is its inability to manage the complex data points that are required to track a cannabis operation's inventory effectively. For instance, when a large work-order is received, the inventory manager must manually calculate:

  1. Product availability;
  2. Low inventory products; and
  3. Calculate the materials needed to make or complete that BOM/product.

We’re seeing it all the time, operators are ready to scale and they realize they need to upgrade their management tools, because managing inventory data manually is very time-consuming and repetitive. Currently most sales/stock-orders are managed this manually through Excel, which is inefficient and resource-intensive, increasing the likelihood for more errors that usually affect revenue and product quality.

Moreover, as the business grows, collaborating on an Excel spreadsheet amongst multiple team members becomes exponentially challenging due to its limited automation capabilities. The lack of data interconnectivity means that team members must rely on at least one employee to manage multiple databases, interpret data across these databases, which leads to bottlenecks and hinders operational growth. While assigning a single ‘data keeper’ may work for small businesses, it creates operational inefficiencies and daily data collection challenges - not to mention the cost of the employee to manage the process. Additionally, if the data keeper leaves, it could severely impact the business and this is a risk that causes operations leaders a lot of concern.

I say this to our customers all the time: don’t wait to improve your processes. If you're currently relying on Excel to manage some or all aspects of your operations, it's crucial to evaluate the potential challenges that may arise.  As a result of your evaluation, consider whether Excel can handle the increased workload and complexity, what the impact of errors or data breaches could be, and the cost to manage the process. It's more than likely worth exploring alternative management systems that can fully support your operations.

Want to know more? Check this out 👉🏾 From Zero to Hero: How PAR management can elevate your production! (


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