For a long time, too long in fact, spreadsheets have been the primary tool that organizations use for budgeting, planning and forecasting. It has become ingrained in the DNA of how organizations function, the foundation of everyday reporting and transmission of vital information. Some teams exchange hundreds of spreadsheets every day, this is despite the fact that nearly 90% of spreadsheets have errors, with an investigation into Enron’s spreadsheet usage finding one with more than 83,000 errors.
So why are spreadsheets still so common? One reason is because that’s how it has always been, electronic spreadsheets have been around since the late 1960s and as the use of computers increased, so spreadsheets took over the world too. They certainly have a function, but unfortunately the way they are used by many businesses is at best unwieldy and time-consuming and at worst exposes your organization to massive losses and regulatory risk.
However, as it is such a cornerstone of modern business practice, one might think that moving from manual input spreadsheets to an automated version was the equivalent of receiving an unnecessary brain transplant. Complicated, expensive and loaded with major risk factors.
Actually, the exact opposite is true. The benefits of automated and cloud-based project planning are manifold while its implementation is quick, flexible and pain-free. You don’t actually have to reinvent the wheel to make a car go faster, just give it a better engine.
How automating your data can change your world:
- Dashboards and oversight: By having one location from where you can easily access all elements of a project’s progress, you can dramatically reduce the time wasted searching for or requesting the information you need. With each individual work strand and metric updated and stored in the cloud, all users can remotely track a project without the hassle or confusion of sharing dozens or even hundreds of spreadsheets.
- Governance and compliance: The regulations of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act regarding accountability, responsibility and transparency make the easy availability of data an essential facet of good corporate governance. Automated project and organization data entry allows auditors to close your books quicker, relieving strain on your associated risks and allowing you to cut time spent ensuring everything is regulatory compliant.
- Real-time collaboration: One of a project manager’s key tasks is being the link between a team and other stakeholders. Unfortunately, this means that a large proportion of their work is spent gathering and sharing project updates through spreadsheets, which is far from the most beneficial use of their time. With automated tracking, each team-member can access and input their individual status, thus creating a centralized portal from which all stakeholders can oversee and communicate about a project’s progress and needs.
- Onboarding new employees: When a new team member is introduced, the last thing they need is scores of spreadsheets arriving in their inbox to “bring them up to speed”. Speed is the last thing it will give them. The best way to assist a new member in understanding how a team or organization works is by providing them access to historical project records which they can easily drill down into for their specific area of expertise.
Spreadsheets are destroying your business and the longer your organization builds its functions around them, the less you will be able to stop it. At the same time, the visibility, time-saving and decision-making benefits that automated tracking offers are undeniable. So, what’s the reason you haven’t switched already?