From Excel to extinct, why spreadsheet driven businesses are a thing of the past

Data. We all want it, we all need it, we all have it. But the format and configuration of it can be something of a common business barrier.

Yet data is at the heart of nearly every business decision ever made. So why does the collation and analysis of data cause organisations so much angst? The answer, they’re doing it wrong.  If you are still manually manipulating multiple spreadsheets to gain insights into your clients or sales targets it is time for a change. Step away from the spreadsheet!


Don’t manipulate, automate!

Mark Fowler, Founder XR Elements – one of the MWA’s members – says he commonly encounters businesses whose data is sitting in multiple locations meaning there is no single view or overarching insight available.

“When we look at the business applications in use we often see that the primary data is coming from an excel spreadsheet. Businesses are running whole departments from excel spreadsheets, possibly with multiple files, and no real source of truth.”

Mark notes that this model is not compatible with the theory of a modern workplace. In these instances, staff’s time is sucked up by having to repeat manual processes that could and should be automated. This has a negative impact on productivity as well as the resulting data being inaccurate.

However modern workplace tools such as Microsoft Dynamics can provide a solution. They work by consolidating existing data and creating a live source of data that coherently pulls information from multiple sources – allowing department leaders to make informed decisions.

Microsoft Dynamics is popular because it offers unmatched integration opportunities. Businesses using the software have no shackles compared to those using off-the-shelf products which can be rigid and inflexible.

Mark notes that he frequently encounters businesses who run multiple systems in different departments, many of which do not interact with one another. This is a big issue when it comes to trying to consolidate data to drive your business forward.

“Businesses are now doing their due diligence to identify a system that supports multiple applications in order to create a smarter work environment and access valuable, previously unobtainable data,” says Mark.

“Microsoft is a popular solution for these businesses given the integration opportunities – it is flexible enough to adopt to current business models and allow the business to scale over time,” continues Mark.

But, before a business can give up their excel spreadsheet and embrace modern workplace solutions, there are certain steps that need to be followed.


Refine your processes before changing software

One of the most common misconceptions about changing software applications is that it provides a quick fix to imperfect business processes. According to Mark, many businesses are not aware of the complexity of developing processes that comes with a digital transformation.

Before replacing existing software applications, businesses should refine their processes. This can be done by reviewing and assessing the following:

  1. Project governance – do you have the correct communication channels established?
  2. Key influencers / decision makers – have you included the right people, who understand the business and the IT, who are able to report to a steering committee and get buy in for a system transformation?
  3. Existing assets – what technology works well with what you’ve got? What software will give you access to the data you want?
  4. Buy-in and adoption – do you have stakeholder buy in to adopt the right delivery framework, are there any risks?


Mark notes that most successful modern workplace transformations start with a bridgehead. This is where a department with pain points that can be solved easily is identified. As with any modern workplace tool, adoption is much easier when the transformation project starts small.


Moving to a modern workplace

The theory behind a modern workplace focuses on customisation and how a business can use different tools differently depending on their needs.  Data is no different.  The trusty excel spreadsheet cannot compete with the advanced analytic capabilities of modern workplace technology.

Microsoft Dynamic technology allows for real time data to be pulled from multiple sources at the click of a button.

Mark provides an analogy for data in the modern workplace, comparing it to a bank mobile app. Where once we had filing cabinets filled with statements, now we have mobile apps filled with real time data. If you don’t still use filing cabinets, why are you still using excel sheets to source your data?

If you are ready to embark on your modern workplace journey, The Modern Workplace Alliance can help. Check out our 1-day workshop to get you on the right path.

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