A Eulogy for Spreadsheet Reporting
Welcome. I want to start by thanking you all for coming. Spreadsheet Reporting played an integral part of many of our lives and I am honored to express my personal relationship with Spreadsheet, which I feel many of you can relate. As we lay Spreadsheet Reporting down to rest, I want to reflect on the fun times we had. I encourage you all to reach out and express the moments that resonated most with you.
Spreadsheets, you were a trendsetter, a comedian, a prankster and a diva.
[pause for nervous laughter]
Before social media claimed the hashtag, they were used overdramatically to identify when columns were too narrow. Your “##########” result setting me into panic will be missed!
All the times you provided me with the “#Ref!”, I thought you were in agreement that the Big 12 college refs were horrible. Come to find out, you were stylishly telling me that I had broken a reference point in a formula.
Your little green triangles will haunt my dreams however trying to hover and click the “!” is a constant battle that I will miss. You were so intuitive, predicting the variance in formulas from row to row and column to column. As annoying as it may have been at the time, I thank you for making me a better problem solver!
Your ability to simplify the largest mistakes the same way as a simple mistake is a true talent. Without blowing things out of proportion, you always just responded cryptically with “?Name#.” Over the past 10 years, you have helped me develop into a NSA level code breaker.
The games you play with circular references were hilarious. I can’t even count how many times I laughed until I cried…or maybe I cried until there was nothing left to do but laugh. Either way, you challenged my emotions on a level I didn’t know existed.
[long pause to wipe tears]
Over the last decade, I had formed a personal, strong bond with you Spreadsheet Reporting. You knew me to my core: my frustrations, my weaknesses, my strengths…and I knew yours. The evolution into complex slicers within pivot tables turned many industry reports on their head. You had found yourself in front of some of the most powerful executives in the world, never backing down from a presentation. Although you were extremely picky about your macros and file formats, you always came around under pressure (sometimes the threat of physical violence.) You lead an amazing life, from the brink of the internet through the growth of the self-righteous, demanding Millennial generation. You will be missed by hundreds of millions, as you impacted everyone worldwide.
The Evolution of the Reporting
Okay, so a eulogy was a bit dramatic, especially since Excel is alive and important to many aspects of business. Reporting, as the industry needs have changed, should not be reliant on these manually driven, proprietary functions. What has lead up to the death of Spreadsheet Reporting…I mean spreadsheet reporting?
Rise of Business Intelligence Tools
Business Intelligence (BI) has replaced many facets of individualized reporting for thousands of companies over the past 3-4 years. BI has created the bridge between information technology and reporting infrastructure. As companies have moved into this space, they have offered dashboard reporting tools such as Tableau or Bime. Additionally, there have been tools to help hooking various data sets into a single database. Tools that best benefit the reporting aspect are able to both configure a centralized database of data points, while providing clean and easy-to-use dashboard reporting tools.
Google Data Studio is an example of a tool that allows brands to coordinate all their individual marketing channels’ data into one database and create a variety of reports. Creating channel specific reporting dashboards, monitoring lifetime value, attribution modeling and much more helps companies solve their complex data issues with a single solution.
These tools are becoming more and more important for a company to show a campaign or channel’s true value, real time, without the need of spreadsheet reporting or manual manipulation. What other benefits do these types of custom analytics solutions provide?
From an accuracy standpoint, dashboard analytics solutions allow teams to standardize processes and reporting needs across entire companies. With spreadsheet reporting, different teams looked at a wide range of metrics and reporting was not uniform with each other. Instead of reading 5 different types of reports, which would have to be manually pulled and manipulated, dashboard analytics allow for one consistent layout of data reporting. Additionally, since the data is real-time, there is no need for repetition or one-off requests, which leads into increased productivity.
Through a seamless segue from accuracy to productivity that I set up, we found that over 18 hours a month are dedicated to manually fixing errors in reporting. This means, your expertly paid “experts” are not spending thousands of dollars a month doing redundant work that provides little to no value to the client. At the end of the day, that is what reporting should be, a value-add to a client or organization, value added to the campaigns that are driving the success of the organization.
Value added to the agency responsible for managing the campaigns. With that additional 18 hours a month, imagine what your brightest minds can achieve towards progressing campaigns forward. Clients will love you. Your employees will love you. Management will love you. Speaking about management…
I don’t get into politics. However, when it comes to data, it is integral to have simple reporting that speaks to what management wants to see. Democratizing data. One of the single-most difficult feats to achieve for most businesses has been easily unlocked through the use of dashboard analytics and business intelligence tools.
Having access to real-time data, at any level in an organization, can contribute to more successful campaigns, increased productivity and streamlined communication. Starting to see a pattern here?
Security and Data Integrity
Operational risk. Sounds intimidating and scary right? Well to break it down, we can ask a few questions. Where are spreadsheets being stored? On a server, secure server? On an employee’s laptop? What if you lose the spreadsheet and don’t have a backup system in place? What if the “report creator” leaves the company or is sick the day changes need to be made? That could result in hundreds of hours lost—and we all know time equals money.
Collaborating via spreadsheets does not work. Google Sheets and SmartSheet have come up with some solutions, as well as out of the box solutions through Excel. But at the end of the day, one person at a time should update a spreadsheet. Which version of the spreadsheet do you look in to get a single version of the truth?
When Spreadsheets Make Sense
I am a realist. Spreadsheets will never actually be phased out of company processes, aside from reporting that is. Spreadsheets have their place. Below you will find a few ways spreadsheets will still stay close to our hearts in the workplace.
- Process Documents
- Data Sorting
- Quick Analysis of Specific Data Points
- Depict Graphical Representation of Specific Data
- Managing Internal Team Information
- Planning or Organization
- Conditional Formatting
- Budget Tracking
- Determining Benchmarks/Formulas
Spreadsheets will always be a part of our professional lives, however the future of reporting will not be in spreadsheet format. To ensure your campaigns perform at their peak and achieve the highest return on investment (ROI), start looking into BI tools and custom dashboard reporting. Google Analytics just doesn’t cut it on its own anymore.
If you want to bury your spreadsheets or go Office Space on your Excel program, give us a shout!