Excel is SaaS’s biggest competitor

In a pre-SaaS (software-as-a-service) world, nearly every industry relied on Microsoft Excel. Accountants relied on it for finance management. Managers used it for project management. HR used it for payrolls and employee directories. The sales team used it for lead management and CRM. Individuals used it for to-do list planning.

As companies adopt digitization, operations and workflows become more complicated. Businesses need to find a way to automate and scale efficiently. Teams need to collaborate internally and externally. Specific use cases gave rise to the unbundling of Excel—businesses are created to replace spreadsheets with alternative tools that cater to a niche target audience, interest, and job-to-be-done.

Turning Excel templates into software companies

Despite new players arise, Excel has yet to be completely replaced due to its decade-long usage, programming capabilities (i.e. Excel formula), and reliability.

In fact, most SaaS apps are simply products unbundled from Excel. These are businesses that turn spreadsheets into profitable software companies:

Unbundling of Excel: Era 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0

To understand the future of SaaS, we need to zoom into the transition of Excel unbundling. I call it Excel 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 of Excel unbundling:

What problems do they solve?