Let’s talk about spreadsheets: the business world’s favorite tool used for project management, data tracking, accounting, and more.
You’ll either shudder or smile when you hear the word spreadsheets, and if you’re reading this article, we have the feeling you’re still making spreadsheets a priority in your project management process.
The good news? You’re not alone. As of 2021, there are 750 million to 2 billion people worldwide who use either Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
The bad news? Spreadsheets are no longer a viable solution to be effective as a team or company, and those 750 million to 2 billion people are continuing to use a tool that hinders both teamwork and tracking across projects, documents, and data.
Don’t get us wrong—Excel has absolutely served its purpose for simple tasks at one point or another, but it’s a legacy tool that wasn’t designed to be a database for large or complex quantities of data. Especially data that needs to be shared and accessed across your company or team. To put it simply, spreadsheets are longer a tool made for modern-day business needs.
Now you may be thinking, wow, these people really have something against spreadsheets, but research shows that your team might too. According to a 2017 FSN survey, 97% of respondents lost sleep over time pressures, accuracy concerns, compliance or control when it came to reporting with spreadsheets.
So if you find Tom from Accounting sneaking a quick snooze in the break room, now you know why. But seriously, if spreadsheets are affecting your team morale, how else could they be affecting your team’s work?
Here are a few ways spreadsheets may be getting in the way of your projects:
1. Multiple Files
Let’s say that every department in your company is tracking their own data and projects through spreadsheets. Marketing is tracking their latest campaign performance, finance is tracking revenue, you get the picture…or maybe, you don’t.
When each team is tracking their projects and performance through individual spreadsheets, data becomes siloed and fails to provide you with the big picture. This limits the ability of project managers and company executives to make informed business decisions because the data can’t be presented or available all at once.
Multiple files not only create siloed data, but also send project managers on scavenger hunts. Instead of spending their time actually managing projects, they waste their time chasing down spreadsheets and files from different stakeholders across the company. Even more, they have no clue who owns or works each file since there’s no centralized space for it all.
Instead of making progress with your projects, spreadsheets can cause you to spend your time piecing together separated data and emailing everyone and their mother to find a file.
2. Multiple File Versions
On top of the trouble that comes with maintaining multiple spreadsheet files, having various versions of those files could be causing headaches for you and your team.
If two marketing managers are each making their own edits to the one spreadsheet that’s housing all campaign data, you now run the risk of multiple versions of the same document being saved. So when your project manager asks to see the latest performance data, which document is the correct one to send them?
The answer is neither. Since updates to the spreadsheet were saved separately, there is no way for one person to see or control the quality of the data, or the recent updates made to it.
Blindly trusting that the spreadsheet you were sent is the most recent, up-to-date version shouldn’t be the norm in your project management process, and could be the cause of error and delay in your project.
3. Data Security (or lack thereof)
In 2016, a local council in Melbourne, Australia emailed a survey to over 900 clients of the City of Kingston Maternal and Child Health Service. What they didn’t know is that they also attached an Excel spreadsheet containing the personal information of over 2,000 people by accident.
Unlike data management platforms, Microsoft Excel lacks the security needed to protect the data stored within your company spreadsheets. All it takes is one data breach, misaddressed email, accidental attachment, or password leak for your spreadsheets to fall into the wrong hands.
Additionally, you must rely on just a few people to manage a spreadsheet’s security, meaning that the future of your files is in your project managers and stakeholders hands.
This lack of data security in spreadsheets truly puts the pressure on projects managers, who now have to take the time to double or even triple check every entry, email, and password.
Making the Switch from Spreadsheets
Here at Kintone, we’ve changed the work of 23,000+ teams and counting.
If you’re thinking about making the switch from spreadsheets, see how our friends at TW Consulting stopped relying on over 100 Google Sheets and built a robust, customizable solution to help schools working with at-risk youth.