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Author's profile photo Nancy Martin

Do You Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Spreadsheets?

/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/dreamstime_xs_25042790_133917.jpgPersonally, I avoid spreadsheets. Well I try, but somehow one always creeps back into my daily work. As a writer, I’m drawn to words not numbers. I envy people who can both write artfully and do math in their head; but alas, I don’t have the talent for math or spreadsheets.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with people who loved spreadsheets. You know the type—their spreadsheets are works of art, full of beautiful colors, macros, and complicated formulas. They even try to keep people like me from messing up the spreadsheets with mandatory drop-down lists for choosing the data. But somehow, I always make a mess of the spreadsheet, leaving me scrambling to fix it to avoid the wrath of my colleagues or manager.

I often hear that some of our customers are equally challenged by spreadsheets. This made me curious about what it would take to push people away from their beloved spreadsheets and entice them to use an automated system. So, I examined every analytics customer testimonial on that mentioned spreadsheets and two things became very clear to me:

  • People change when they realize they have to transform processes in order to keep their financial house in order. However, they also know that growth and new opportunities depend on better tools for uncovering, the information necessary to make the right decisions.
  • More often than not, the catalyst for change comes from leadership needing faster, more accurate budgets and forecasts. Somehow during the budget or forecasting process, when the spreadsheet(s) were passed around, errors snuck their way in and numbers didn’t make sense when analyzed. It would take weeks, sometimes months to get a report that was trustworthy, and by then it was time to start the next reporting cycle.

Below are two of my favorite automation customer success stories—they’re worth the read.

At CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr. and Hardees), the finance team manually collected financial data by emailing spreadsheets to all contributors and then consolidating the information. It took days to aggregate and create forecasts and weeks to consolidate and create budgets. they wanted to spend their time analyzing the data and looking at the business as a whole, so they automated. Automation has cut CKE’s budget cycle by one-third.

Iberiabank wanted to support fast market expansion, but manual forecasting through spreadsheets was slow, and limited to a few key decision makers. They needed their entire executive team and lower management to have access to forecasts. After they automated, management could quickly determine what new products and services they needed to offer at the lowest risk, and time spent on forecasting was reduced by one-third. What a coincidence that both of my examples achieved the same result.

What about you? Have you had a love/hate relationship with spreadsheets? Do you have a great story about a spreadsheet control freak? Or do you know someone, like me, that wrecked your perfect spreadsheet? Inquiring minds want to know.

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