My Love-hate relationship with Excel Spreadsheet has it's bearing from the design workshops where I would sit as an spectator, while the business user, like a little kid will show up with their fancy spreadsheet and would expect me to be enamoured, as if what's been shown is piece of ART. In some ways it is, as no two spreadsheets are the same. May be that's why the users love spreadsheets, sense of ownership more than anything else.
In a business process design workshop the change management challenge begins whenever we tell the user that they cannot get exactly the same view as the spreadsheet,. Over the years I have developed an approach called the Learning Path Model to engage users early on in design and ensure no surprises accompany the change. (Is the previous sentence relevant to the discussion? I think the point is more about the pain of moving away from spreadsheets, not the process of figuring out what they want to do) Moving users away from spreadsheets remains painful for the users as well as project teams.
Over the years, I’ve become an advanced level user of spreadsheets and have used spreadsheets to enable complex processes and workflows. At the same time, I have 15+ years of experience in rolling out enterprise IT systems including SAP, Oracle, JDA etc. specifically designed to replace the spreadsheet process,. The conflict occurs when the enterprise IT systems aren’t able to express the information in a way that most people need for processing it and communication. It is my experience that most enterprise system users still process the data in spreadsheets for reporting purposes. Hence the love-hate relationship. We can’t live with them, we can’t live without them.
I’m often called in to investigate why the enterprise systems are not delivering the promised ROI. I’m also asked why business users continue to use the spreadsheets in spite of multi-million dollar spent in getting the most sophisticated systems that money can buy? By following proprietary structured approach "Know What To Deliver" , with objective to separate out true needs from unnecessary distractions, uncover hidden need in a proactive way and create ownership both for project team and the user, we were able to move the users away from spreadsheets. You can spot one of our success stories here: Customer Story
At times, I have observed spreadsheet users resist the change, a simple case that we can relate to is when my firm was tracking all sales leads in a spreadsheet and we moved to the implementation of the new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. In such situations, users simply did not want to give away the spreadsheet. Few months down the lane, the same users could not imagine managing the sales process on spreadsheets. (Again, I don’t think we should talk about NOT using spreadsheets in this post… I think it’s confusing)
Users have come to see the spreadsheet as modern day equivalent of a Zeus Thunder Bolt. That is spreadsheets are "Effective and relevant in all occasions, while still being in CONTROL". Actually, "CONTROL" is tricky, and it can slip away when it is most wanted and least expected.
First thing that all of us earthlings learn in B school or on our first job, and of course after few mishaps, is to frequently use Ctrl+S, i.e. to save presentations, spreadsheets and Word documents. Second thing that we learn is versioning; if you don't have seventeen versions of same spreadsheet then you have not really worked on that spreadsheet enough. Does that sound familiar?
Don't get me wrong, I am not here to dissuade you from using spreadsheets or recommend the usage but will challenge you to answer few questions:
- How many of you have sat in meeting and asked, "Is this the right spreadsheet?"
- Have you sat in a meeting and thought to yourself, “Oh no, my changes are not reflected. Did I make changes in wrong spreadsheets”?
- Have you worked on a multi-user spreadsheet and the monthly report is missing one data element or you have no idea who made the changes or why the change was made in this shared spreadsheet?
- Suddenly you find another kind of thunderbolt hits you hard and business leadership perceives your spreadsheet-driven processes is more like an Achilles Heels than anything from Zeus.
Having bashed the spreadsheets enough, the question still comes to mind; how can 1 billion+ spreadsheet users across the globe, including myself, be wrong. So the question is why spreadsheets? What makes a spreadsheet so attractive?
I think it comes down to ease of use:
- Using a spreadsheet is like WALKING. One learns how to apply spreadsheets to business processes or reports in B School or on the first real job. It becomes part of your set of tools.
- Excel, the most widely used spreadsheet, has the most extensive add-ons available in the market. You can literally get spreadsheet to do anything you want it to do.
- Spreadsheets offer flexibility beyond anything we can find. They can serve as data repository provide great visualization features, and allow for analytics and simulation all in one place.
- Unbeatable ROI. It's already paid for and installed on your laptop where as any other software solutions cost additional money and require approval from management.
So it is clear we LOVE spreadsheets for their flexibility, but where they often fail is the lack of traceability, data sharing, and restrictions, global analytics, etc.
Well, the good news is that a ground-breaking new solution, datatooth has got you covered. Datatooth combines an Excel Front-End with backend database leveraging a patented technology allowing it to keep all native functionality of the spreadsheet intact while benefiting from the connection to the database. This connection ensures the data is available for collaboration, global analytics, and audit control on cell-level changes. Datatooth allows building access controls that will limit the data views based on an authorization table defined by the client.
The datatooth team offers various pre-built templates for simple to complex business processes. For example, if you want to collaborate with your supplier; no more waiting for months and enduring a long, painful Information Technology project to be completed. Templates are readily available for businesses which allow you to collaborate with your suppliers in a matter of days. It’s that simple!
Additionally, if the templates are not available in the datatooth template store, then customers can request a custom process-driven template and the datatooth product team will work with your business to enable your existing spreadsheets onto the datatooth platform. No more multi-year implementations and painful change management processes - users work in Excel with minimal training needed on the additional functionality that datatooth offers.
ROI from datatooth is almost instantaneous. If you are feeling the pain of having a large enterprise system that lacks flexibility to support your business needs, or you are a company that uses extensive spreadsheets and is struggling to control the spreadsheet processes; datatooth might be your solution.
Give us a call. We are available to hear your needs and would be happy to work with you to drive process improvement. Click below to drop a note to our amazing sales team and schedule a demo!