It’s true – Forbes once described Microsoft Excel as “one of the most dangerous software products on the planet.”
Pretty bold assertion, huh?
But it’s true that many of our clients are using Excel spreadsheets to run their businesses. Usually there is a large set of spreadsheets being emailed from the various departments up to executive management. Their goal? To combine data from multiple systems into one central location so that they can query it for reports.
“When we meet with a client, and see that entire sections of their business are working from Excel spreadsheets… with complex calculations and dozens of tabs, we know that we’re going to be able to really wow this company with what we can do for them,” said Craig Lyle, Teksouth’s Director of Commercial Sales.
We recently had a client that fit this description perfectly; we’ll call them XYZ Properties. Now XYZ had the typical Excel workbook full of tabs they used company wide, tracking performance and trends of their property management activities. We call these “Spreadmarts” – spreadsheets with everything under the sun in them, kind of like WalMart, if you will. In XYZ’s case, they were even being used to send reporting to customers.
Now – we like a good spreadsheet just as much as the next person. But unfortunately and inevitably spreadsheets have such profound weaknesses that they unravel an organization’s reporting and trending over time. To mention a few:
- Calculation errors. Data that’s moved innocently in one spreadsheet can have a ripple effect on formulas in other subsequent worksheets. Especially embarrassing – or even filled with legal implications – if a wrong set of numbers goes in front of your board, or out to a client.
- Inability to have interactive reports – Excel can be very linear; that is, it’s difficult to easily play out “what if” scenarios effectively or change parameters of the report on the fly.
- Inability to easily track accurate trends in the business
- Overall fear/lack of complete trust in the reports – both internally as well as on behalf of a client.
Our clients were no dummies, and they realized all of these shortcomings as well. So, they reached out to us for help putting an end to their Excel spreadsheet “house of cards.”
Our team spent time learning about the information XYZ most wanted to track, where the source data was stored (in various different information system software products), and what types of data they actually wanted to be able to easily visualize. We also helped them study different BI tools, with Microsoft’s Power BI and Tableau both being selected by the client.
In a relatively short period of time (3 months), we were able to develop a small data warehouse that integrated several of their disparate data sources. We were then able to deploy a new reporting and analytics platform. Not only that, we pulled XYZ’s CLIENT data into the platform, and gave their customers remote access to the platform.
Now today, this same client has a FULL analytics system in place, and also has a portal they offer to customers, so that everyone has access to live analytical data. Both XYZ and their customers are in sync, seeing the same metrics, and fully trusting every number that comes out of their system.
Because of the way we built out their data model, XYZ was then able to use any BI tool they wanted to consume, view, and act on their data… since the model was built to be reporting tool-agnostic.
And XYZ still uses Excel spreadsheets by the way – but now it’s for keeping track of whose turn it is to make coffee, and to track name badges – NOT to run their entire company!
“Excel is a powerful business tool, and an excellent way to kick off and flesh out a business idea, but it’s often hard to know when to transition from a spreadsheet to a professionally built and managed data model. Fortunately for our clients, we know exactly when and how to do that,” Craig said.
At Teksouth, we’ve spent years helping businesses improve user access. In addition, we work to promote self-service, finding a solution to manage the growing amount of data compiled daily across all functional domains where there previously was not one. The exponential growth of data, high cost of technology, decreasing funds availability, and diversity of the client users continue to challenge many business entities, but assistance and real-world solutions are available! Teksouth is happy to provide robust reporting and analytics in weeks, instead of months or years. No more shouldering the boulder yourself. Call us today for help at 800.842.1470!