The power of Microsoft’s spreadsheet is undeniable: you can enter formulas, retrieve data from external sources, create graphics, but is it the right tool to create a product configurator?
Flexibility, yes, but…
With Excel you can really do many things, but basically it is one file, with all the problems that come with it. Even if you add add-ins, it is not a product that has been structured and implemented to perform this task specifically, although its customization makes it adaptable to many situations.
One of the main problems we encountered when we were asked to replace custom Excel-based solutions was the proliferation of versions of the “Configurator”, both from a chronological and content point of view. As it is an unstructured tool from this point of view, there were considerable difficulties in managing these sheets. In this case, it is necessary to organize the maintenance and distribution of the versions to avoid that someone uses a tool with obsolete data or procedures.
With Excel, just about anything can be realized.
The advantages of using Excel include its ease of use and extremely high flexibility of use. Even if these features should be generally considered positive, they could be harmful within the configuration context. In fact, some users prefer to use Excel because they already have a good command of the tool: using a structured tool forces them to rethink the variants of their products and the way they can offer them on the market. If a non-standard option is increasingly in demand, it is right that it should be identified, programmed and managed and be part of one of the possible and standardised selections. So you can no longer hide behind the phrase that the client asks us every time he deviates slightly from the standard. It must be understood that if an unprogrammed variant is proposed and not evaluated by people with a technical background, this could have an impact on the feasibility and cost of the product, with erosion of the sales margin and transverse damage to the whole company. It is therefore better to have clear and common rules that do not constitute a limitation, but the possibility of having a failed sale and a congruent process.
Development and integration of products.
When we talk about Excel solutions for configuration, we often have to deal with home solutions implemented internally according to specific criteria and needs, which soon prove to be restrictive, and which are difficult to evolve with the company’s business. There is no shortage of developers. Excel is simply not the most suitable tool for this purpose if you are faced with many constraints to be implemented and many features to be evaluated.
There are also commercial configuration solutions that are based on Excel, but only use it as a front-end. In this article we don’t want to belittle Excel, which is really rich in functionality and an indispensable tool, but we think that there are much better ways to create a product configurator. A configurator should have the following features:
- should be a single tool that guides the user and gives quick answers,
- should be a container for common decisions and rules,
- enable the mapping of processes from delivery to production data
- should allow the creation of reports and documents related to the configuration,
- should be integrable with ERP and CRM,
- should guarantee the security of data and company know-how.
Excel is certainly a very useful tool with an enormous variety of functions, but for the purpose of product configuration, there are much better options on the market. It is better to rely on products that are designed for the specific purpose. In the short term they are probably more expensive than Excel, but in the long term we should also consider the time and difficulty of maintaining a custom solution based on Excel.
We are specialized in the planning and implementation of 3D configurators in real-time 3D and therefore offer you a much better possibility to realize your product configurator in the medium to long term.
Contact us and let us advise you today, free of charge and without obligation.