Microsoft Excel is one of the few programs that is universally used at work. Without it, enterprises wouldn’t be able to perform half of their daily tasks, retain data in an organized manner, or analyze it properly.
While many companies utilize Excel for their basic table requirements, the software is capable of much more, and can actually act as an automation powerhouse for your business needs! One of these nifty functionalities is VBA, which any manager should be familiar with.
So, what is VBA? And should you use it? We have all the answers you need.
What is VBA?
VBA stands for Visual Basic for Applications. It’s a programming language shared by the Microsoft Office suites, for example, Word, PowerPoint, and finally, our star of the show: Excel. While it is impossible to change the way the software works at its core, VBA allows you to adjust and create functionality that will help optimize your use and minimize the time it takes you to carry out tasks. In business use, these commonly include data cleanup and formatting, the creation of tables of content, or pivot table automation.
The way it works is relatively simple: you write instructions in VBA form, and Excel performs them on its own without your input. It’s far simpler than other programming languages, and you can use one of the many YouTube or online tutorials available for free to learn how to use it. Alternatively, if you want to cover all of your bases, some companies offer courses that take as little as three days to complete.
What are the pros of VBA?
If used correctly, VBA has many advantages that can truly transform the way a business runs its spreadsheets. For example:
VBA allows you to automate your tasks. This means that you no longer have to sit in front of your computer, waiting for one part of the process to end so you can click away to carry out the next part. Instead, you can just let Excel do everything for you while you go about your business! In the age of automation, this is definitely a major benefit.
Beyond the ease of use, another important feature VBA offers is consistency. Excel will perform the task exactly the same way every single time, which is a blessing — especially when the exercise is repetitive and prone to human error. Gone are the days of forgetting an important step and having to restart.
This is a pretty self-explanatory one: computers can do most things far quicker than humans, so automation is simply more efficient time-wise. You could feasibly cut down the time it takes you to carry out a task without much effort.
Learning VBA might not be the best option for every single employee in your organization. However, if a few key people set it up properly, the entire company will be able to use your spreadsheets in the same manner, regardless of their proficiency with Excel — think of all the headaches this will save you.
What are the cons of VBA?
Although VBA is a pretty straightforward function with the capacity to enhance the way your business works, there are still some important disadvantages that should be considered:
Probably the most obvious one, in order to use VBA properly you need to, well, know how to program with it. We’ve already mentioned that it’s not a difficult language to learn, but it can still take time to master, so you should think about whether it’s worth it for your specific needs.
If you’re the only one using your spreadsheet, that’s great — but in business, multiple people need to collaborate on many tasks from day to day. Unfortunately, Excel is generally not the best at collaboration, but when it comes to VBA, it can get even more complicated. For example, every user needs to have their own copy of the software, and if their version is different to yours, the functionality may not work.
The previous issue doesn’t only apply to collaboration. Excel keeps updating, and this means that even your own version may change and render your trusted VBA unusable. Even if nothing about the software changes, unless you’re a VBA pro, you may need to adjust and debug, which can be extremely frustrating.
While Excel is a great program, it has some very glaring deficiencies, from lack of IP security to poor version control. Many organizations are now moving towards web applications utilizing low-code platforms to replace their spreadsheets, but, unfortunately, this means that the investment into the spreadsheets and VBA becomes a throwaway. The tremendous power of VBA is often not reproducible within the low-code solutions capabilities. That said, some low-code platforms reuse the native Excel file while adding functionalities or obviating the deficiencies of spreadsheets alone. For example, with EASA, your native spreadsheet continues to be used in its native form by the EASA system, and this includes VBA and macros.
Should my business use VBA?
We believe that VBA can be beneficial for most businesses, no matter their needs. Its automation properties can unlock the true potential of your company’s spreadsheets, and save you time, energy and effort. However, while learning the language is not difficult, there are still some disadvantages that should be taken into account.
If you have lots of repetitive and time consuming tasks, VBA can be your best friend. But in case your spreadsheet uses are basic, it may not be worth the effort of learning to use it, not to mention endless debugging processes and compatibility issues.