Each day we work with data and it comes from different sources and in different formats. Most of us face the same one problem. Sometimes it takes a lot of time and effort to get proper results from the internally existing systems. Just to be clear I am not talking about anything advanced, just simple day to day spreadsheets.
The thing is the data is everywhere you want that or not. Even the smallest of businesses are data driven at some extent. Small businesses has less of the struggle with data because usually data is simpler and smaller. Some even find the ways to ignore a lot of work related with data because at most part it doesn’t look profitable to them.
For middle and large size businesses data becomes more important as the size of business gets bigger. Somehow amount of the data available or data collecting methods are not the problem in most cases. But quality and ways of using it is the different story.
Most of business and industry sectors looks at different data in different ways. As time goes by changes are taking place on how we look into the data because of many internal and external reasons. As good as internal data storage and analysis systems come they are not all-in-one solution in the most cases.
Yes of course IT guys are working on these problems all the time improving the systems and building integrated solutions in the existing systems. But still not everything can be build into the systems. Why? Because it’s quite expensive in time, money and working hours. Some solutions would be used only just by small number of people so usually they are left behind.
Looking from other perspective people simply love the spreadsheets. This is one of the reasons why they are used to fill all the gaps of data analysis and reporting quickly and quite efficiently. Users feel comfortable using them. They can put additional data and formulas near existing data, do checks in the reports and more. Also in the most cases it’s more customisable compared to the other data analysis systems.
But wait something tells me that it’s not as good as it sounds. Building ad-hoc or periodic reports that provides data analysis in particular format can be tricky and very time consuming. And after most of us struggle a lot to prepare data analysis put into report it still doesn’t look as good as we initially wanted. This shows simple fact that we don’t know our spreadsheets as we should. Googling helps but it’s not always simple to find all the answers and spreadsheets has their limitations. What’s why large and medium size companies have so many daily and weekly reports are created. They are hard to maintain or simply update with the new data. So new ones are created when needed and resources are wasted.
Hopefully newly created report was useful and no mistakes there found and your manager is happy. Some of these report might be requested on weekly bases. Now weekly report maintenance comes into play. The problem where is that user feeling comfortable with spreadsheets are not equal to actual knowledge about them. Yes smart users will find the way around most of maintaining and building problems but for the most guys it’s not the daily job. It’s more of the one-off just to get it done.
Spreadsheet is the king when it comes to custom report design and execution. But when you have too many of them because your manager just simply doesn’t like the new shiny system, it can become a huge problem. Why? Because sometimes some of the managers are simply not trying to understand or adapt the new way of looking at the data. Problem appears when they try to find solutions to walk around it even putting a lot of resources into them. This creates additional work for others. And so multiply new spreadsheets are developed and sometimes amended many times. This of course solves the new “shiny solution problem” for managers but systems are not used efficiently saving time for all. It is not secret that saving time on reporting there possible helps people to focus their time on more important things. Run the business more profitably and make the decisions faster.
Simple clear core business reports giving updates for managers on regular bases simply needs to be generated from the systems. Time saved should be focused on the important existing business processes and critical ad-hoc analysis. This all comes down to simple and clear systems, data and reporting strategy that has strong support from the top managers.