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Why you need to stop spreadsheets sucking the lifeblood out of your organisation

by | 15 Jan, 2019 | Product

Who doesn’t love a good spreadsheet? We even have ‘Spreadsheet Day’ every year on 17 October to celebrate their amazingness (who knew?!).

We love spreadsheets because they’re easy to use, make us feel reassured and they give us the freedom to do whatever we want. We use them to make sense of our data with graphs, charts and pivot tables. We use them to plan our requirements and schedule resources. We use them the document our procedures, processes and the way we do business.

Did you know…spreadsheets are the most common way of managing process?
And that’s the problem…

Spreadsheets are an accounting tool

People are using spreadsheets for things they were never intended to do; spreadsheets were only ever created with the simple purpose of being an accounting tool. It means your business is left exposed because spreadsheets lack basic functionality, such as login and access control, workflow management, integration with other platforms and mobility.

So why do people insist on using spreadsheets for everything?

Spreadsheets are the easy way to bypass IT and get things done

In some organisations, IT procurement is a challenge and many outsiders fear entering the lion’s den to ask for something new. Therefore, rather than ask for the tool that will help them work smarter/faster, they seek out an alternative they deem to be ‘fit-for-purpose’.

The trouble is that you’re missing out. Today there’s a SaaS product for everything, developed by people that are genuinely passionate about their space, creating productivity tools that can take you places you never dreamed possible.

Plus, the great thing about SaaS is that they’re subscription-based services that you can (usually) turn on and off easily and require little to no training. It’s low-cost, low-effort, low-risk.

Employees want to feel ownership

As the people actually doing the work, at a granular level your team probably knows more about how your department runs than you do. This gives you a problem.

If you fail to recognise and reward their contribution, your team will start feeling demoralised. As well as impacting their productivity, it’s going to make them protect what they consider to be their IP – i.e. the way they perform their job. Now, they’ve documented their process (because they really feel like it’s THEIR process) on their beloved spreadsheet, but they’re never going to share it with anyone.

Now imagine this person leaves…what do you do? You teach the replacement how you thought the job was performed – but it’s not the same. That’s because over time your previous employee had tweaked and updated the process when they found better ways of doing it. But because you failed to recognise their contribution, that knowledge is now lost on a spreadsheet and you’re left in a vulnerable position.

And there’s the opportunity…

Because your team are the people doing the work, they see where your process is failing…and more importantly, how to improve it. By getting your team to document the way they work in a system, it gives you an enormous opportunity to keep updating the process to make it better and better…and better.

People want to feel involved

People are inherently motivated by feeling involved. This is particularly true in smaller organisations where people can see the direct impact their contribution is making.

According to a survey that was published by Forbes, more than 80% of UK and US employees would like their bosses to share more business performance information.

The problem is, as much as you might want to share that information, you can’t.

Your information resides in your spreadsheets. But as we said before, spreadsheets are an accounting tool. This means that while they’re good for manipulating data, they’re not very good at visualising it.

When asked why they signed up to Process Bliss, one of our clients said, “We needed something for events because we have 60 steps that are split across three processes. We used spreadsheets, but spreadsheets are shit. They only have a linear order, unless you make it a gantt chart with dates and actions. But even then, they aren’t proactive – they don’t tell you to anything.”

It’s because spreadsheets are built for accounting so you can’t quickly and easily communicate how your department and/or the rest of the business is performing.

So now you have a bigger problem…

In that same survey, it found that a quarter of employees have left a job because they weren’t privy to information on business performance.

So you’ve lost your best people because your spreadsheets couldn’t let you share information on the business your team worked so hard to grow for you.

The good news is…

…people are now waking up to smarter ways of working.

Today, ‘fit-for-purpose; isn’t enough. People want to be the best because they care about how your organisation is performing, and they care about how that performance reflects on them personally.

In addition, SaaS products are becoming more accepted in organisations, particularly within SMEs who see the value in exploiting these tools to help them get ahead of their larger, more established competitors.

So with change afoot, perhaps you can embrace the opportunity to get your team to try something new?

Taking advantage of SaaS for process management

There are two mistakes we see organisations make when implementing a SaaS product for process management:

  1. They think they need a perfect process before they can use software.
  2. They expect the software to be used for every process.

We find that organisations that have started by moving just one process to an online tool fair best when it comes to rolling the product out. With one process, you can perfect it as you go along by asking all involved for their feedback, and prove the model works. Then you can add a second process…and then a third process…and a fourth…

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