I would like to start this post with giving some credit where credit is due. Spreadsheets are one of the most amazing tools available to you on your computer. You can keep track of whatever data you like in a tabular form that allows for very complex calculations. Business have been using spreadsheets in almost the same form for decades and it has worked wonderfully for businesses. So, why would we question this cornerstone of business operation?
Spreadsheets, in all their glory, are a poor format for collaboration. For anyone that is managing a team of more than a few people, this is not a revelation. The reliance on spreadsheets for business process management and team collaboration has been rampant at every company that I have worked with. I’m sure we all can recall a moment where someone said something to the effect of:
Sally has a spreadsheet outlining all of the tasks for this upcoming quarter. I’ll have her email you a copy.
What does that hypothetical quote really mean? It means that Sally has a spreadsheet stored on her computer. She has been tracking all of the tasks for the team and updating her copy of the spreadsheet frequently. Whenever someone wants to see what’s going on, all they have to do is ask Sally and she can email a copy out. It sure is nice of Sally to be managing all of this but isn’t there something better that she could be doing with her time?
I find my self frequently challenging this form of collaboration. It’s common place to have a business be more concerned with the purchase cost of a software application than the amount of time it will save. For those keeping score at home, Time = Money. When businesses only concern themselves with the short term, they see software as a cost not a benefit.
So where do we go from here? There is a need for gathering data to track information and processes. Many businesses have caught on to the simple fact that spreadsheets are not scaling in an efficient way. How is your business dealing with this issue?