Our mission: to eliminate spreadsheets
For many businesses spreadsheets are an essential part of every working day. They make data analysis easier: importing, exporting, merging, analysing, sorting and reporting. For those who want to do more, the ‘power users’ also have filters, formulas and macros to squeeze every drop of value out of where the data came from.
Certainly they offer a massive improvement over the previous ways of analysis and modelling. These either involved very expensive mainframe computers or, for most of us, printed items, tables and hand calculators. All written, accounted for, desperately slow and difficult to analyse. So, for the 1970’s business leader, computing spreadsheets were a revolution.
It is little wonder that spreadsheets have dominated for many years, from the marketer to the accountant, operations to logistics, they have provided greater reporting, insight and data warehousing than we could have imagined in the past.
Yet, forty years later, even considering fully featured solutions like Excel, the bell is tolling for spreadsheet software – they have now reached retirement age. It is our view that the modern business will be held back. In this article we explore the limitations and suggest what the future will look like.
Problem 1: Spreadsheets are Snapshots that Date
The first challenge for businesses is that spreadsheets are a snapshot of a point in time and, from that point in time, they date. Of course some come with macros or updating fields, but even then, they only present what has happened so far. For as long as you rely on spreadsheets to help you make decisions, you will be looking back, sometimes far further back than you would like to.
The modern business leader needs real-time information delivered to them. From multiple sources. If there’s a trend they need to see it today, not in a quarterly management meeting or at year end when it may be too late to act on key business information.
Problem 2: Spreadsheets are a Reactive Tool
The next challenge is that spreadsheets are a reactive tool. It’s not just that they date quickly, but also they don’t actually ever support positive decisions. They alert to the outcomes, reporting on what it is, and then you need to do something about it. Furthermore, it is easy for top line data to mask what is happening underneath, spreadsheets are poor at forecasting and modelling, which is why most business plans are at best informed guesswork.
A modern business needs to be proactive: not waiting for a report, but being alerted fast as to what happened yesterday, today and tomorrow, as well as the longer-term future. With data being collated from different business areas to give the full picture of today and more accurate forecasting of tomorrow.
Problem 3: Spreadsheets Rely on Scrutiny
Spreadsheets are also only as good as the eye scrutinising them. Sure, we can add colours and highlights to draw our attention to specific numbers, but sometimes that just draws attention away from where the real problem may lie. Do you really have enough time to look at all the data, or do you just pick out the top line information? It’s easy to miss the real numbers that matter.
If you need not wait on a spreadsheet to be queried by a human eye, but your data were interrogated in real time, with decision tools watching it, alerting you where necessary. Then your attention would only be needed as and where there was an issue. Not only does this mean you are informed more quickly, but you will see trends, events, anomalies and concerns way before you would otherwise be aware of it.
Problem 4: Spreadsheets Struggle to Maintain Quality
The more complex spreadsheets get, the greater the range of sources, and, it follows, the better the data in terms of understanding your business operations and performance. However, with this increase in scope and detail, quality remains harder to control. Is the timing of the data correct? What margins for error are there? Are there any estimates or assumptions you need to be aware of? Behind most management reports is a wide range of sources of information, with every one subject to estimation, variation and confidence limits. So what you see may seem comprehensive, but should come with appropriate health warnings.
If you were able to not only be able to view the top line figures, but had an online dashboard of live reports to back up your performance in different areas of business operation, then when it comes to the fuller picture, you would know the supporting information. You would be able to drill down where necessary, but all the information would be in front of you, as well as the other key members of your management team.
So, How To Get There?
The kind of solution which would have been recommended five years ago would have come with an ‘Enterprise ticket’ – certainly you’d be looking at a six to seven figure bill to set it up. Today, it’s different, as there are two major changes to be aware of:
- Cloud and Connectivity – modern cloud-based systems are connecting multiple software with the kind of efficiency we used to dream about. If your financial, marketing, logistics, ERP and CRM have open APIs and share data between each other, why develop a bespoke or buy ‘locked box’ solution?
- Decisions and Bots – Once that data is being shared, by using decision-making tools and bots, you can then have a virtual eye on the entire business, either by looking for specific things (such as new enquiries from target businesses) all the way through the KPIs you set (for example quote to cash measuring). These tools can then alert your attention as a situation is occurring, not days, weeks or months later
The best part is that you’re probably part of the way there already. You almost certainly are using some open source software, maybe for your website, and cloud based solutions for other functions – like accounting or marketing. What you need is somewhere to join it all up, where you can have these decisions running for you. Making you better informed and your business healthier.
The good news is that we can work with what you have already got. You don’t need to throw everything away, we just fill in the gaps and give you the tools to make your business happen. If you want to explore this kind of future, then contact us by email, or call 0118 324 7700 and discuss your needs with the team.
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We can help you setup any of the following:
- Leads & CRM
- Decision Management
- Or any of the wide range of website, app, email, social, finance, reporting or bespoke softwares you choose!
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We believe the best software is created in an environment of open innovation and accountability, so Omny Link is yours to test, trial or develop.
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