Time to Rethink Spreadsheets for Tracking Company Data?


Ah, spreadsheets. So easy, so convenient. And so frustratingly difficult. If you’re tracking company data, you probably have a love/hate relationship with spreadsheets. They’re easy to use, but they can also be inconvenient and annoying. It’s a paradox, yet often true.

That said, the problem with spreadsheets goes beyond their cumbersomeness (is that a word?). Spreadsheets can make your company data hard to understand, difficult to access, and vulnerable to corruption.

Should you rethink using spreadsheets for tracking company data? And if so, are there any options? Glad you asked! Here are five reasons it might be time to start ditching spreadsheets for some of your data—and an alternative solution for managing that data.

Decentralized data

If you’re like most companies, you’ve got a structured file server or cloud storage for all your organization’s digital documents. And if you’re like most companies, half of your people don’t use it properly. There are rogue spreadsheets everywhere—weird locations on the file server, computer hard drives, and even personal Dropbox accounts. Chances are, you’ve got several versions of the same spreadsheet floating around, too.

Spreadsheets are convenient—anyone can create one at any time, for any purpose, and keep them anywhere. That’s a great thing, until you have to track down that data for reporting. At some point, does the unproductivity outweigh the convenience?

Consolidation quagmire

Once you’ve found the data you need, consolidating it for reporting becomes the next challenge. Sure, you could find a spreadsheet jockey to write complicated macros to automate pulling and merging at least some data, but macros are touchy and easily broken. Plus, every time a new spreadsheet joins the mix (or even a new line) you may need to backtrack and update the macro.

Another option is manually copying and pasting the data into your report—if you’re willing to take the time to do it. And be careful of copy/paste errors!

The more you manually manage your data, the more opportunities you have for error. You can avoid that by looking into applications that automatically move your data into reports, tables and dashboards.

Soft security

Spreadsheets are great because anyone can access a spreadsheet. They’re also terrible, because anyone can access a spreadsheet. Need to keep employee or department performance data private? You might want to rethink that spreadsheet.

Even though you can “protect” data in a spreadsheet, it’s actually very easy to get past the password encryption—if you know what you’re doing. A disgruntled employee has all the motivation they need to access hidden information.

Spreadsheets weren’t designed to block access, only visibility. To protect access, use a system that was built with security in mind.

A sore sight for eyes

There’s a reason no one sits down to read a spreadsheet. Okay, there are probably lots of reasons. But our point is, spreadsheets aren’t easy on the eyes—or easy to quickly glean a picture of what’s going well and what’s not—except to the trained eye.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the most critical numbers about the health of your company were in one place, and easy to read at a glance? Without fiddling with finicky conditional formatting in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets?

With the right tool, you can have a dashboard that helps to visualize data, highlighting what’s in or out of your target range, so your leadership team can invest their time in getting to the root of any issues the data brings to light, rather than sifting through the data itself.

Cleanup is hard

Let’s say you’ve just made a new hire, or you’ve identified a new performance metric to start tracking. No problem—just add a row or column to your spreadsheet. But what if an employee leaves your company, or transfers departments? Or what if you no longer want to track a certain metric?

Getting rid of irrelevant information in a spreadsheet isn’t always easy—especially if it involves merged cells or linked data. So you’ll probably have a lot of historical data to wade through when you’re looking for the latest numbers. It’s like trying to find the floor in a teenager’s bedroom!

Spreadsheets give you a glut of information, all at once. But you probably only need certain information at a time. Applications that provide visual dashboards and tables make it easy to understand the information you need, and only that information.

A better option

If your company is running on EOS®, there is an alternative to spreadsheets. Traction® Tools is the officially licensed provider of EOS Software. This cloud-based application simplifies updating data such as your EOS ScorecardTM, and its centralized database makes it easy to locate the information you need whenever you need it.

Handpicked related content: Roll Out Traction Tools to Boost Efficiency Throughout Your Company

If your love/hate relationship with spreadsheets is more hate/hate these days, maybe it’s time to see what you can do with Traction Tools. Sign up for a free demo today!

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  • Kathy Mayfield
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