Ditch the spreadsheets

Ditch the spreadsheets

Samuel Sianipar

December 4, 2020
by

Spreadsheets have become the duck tape of the business world. Anyone on your team can pick it up and ”sorta” solve the issue at hand. The more you use it to “sorta’ solve problems, the more problems you’ve “sorta” solved.

Eventually it breaks, floods the basement and you have a huge mess to clean up.  Worse, everyone is angry. 

Now imagine you’re running an emerging SaaS startup. You’ve reached initial scale (i.e. $1M ARR) and you're still using spreadsheets in critical workflows. Again, you wake to the proverbial  flooded basement. Or as we like to call it a shit ton of operational debt. No one wants that.

Lets Critically look at spreadsheets and their cloud-hosted brethren: 

Pros:

  • Super easy to use and to execute basic functions 
  • Available to all team members and fairly inexpensive 
  • Pretty flexible 
  • Can be emailed around or shared in many business environments 

Cons:

  • They're static. Someone has to update the data, own the process and commit to it
  • Single point of failure. Spreadsheets get complex, and then only the person who created it knows how to untangle it
  • Multiple points of failure if multiple people can mess with the original template  
  • They don't scale. Every time the process expands the failure points fail
  • You know the minute you share it, you'll need to fix it or more likely replace it

Spreadsheets are for your finance team! I said it. They're fine when you’re just getting started. They help plug holes where everything is leaky 24/7. Once you have some scale though, they just create bottlenecks to growth. For example, most companies I talk with are running implementation projects off of spreadsheets. For the first few clients this is ok, it gives the project structure, it lays out the variables, and a timeline. However, the day you have three or more live projects, you notice all your time is going into updating that damn spreadsheet - emailing everyone on the project, asking for updates on their tasks that are due this week, updating fields, sending it around, sending an "updated timeline" email. God forbid something throws the project off; there goes your weekend. “Sorry little Timmy, Mom's gotta chase down her coworkers and new clients this weekend. Hopefully Chuck E. Cheese is open next week. Spoiler alert! Chuck E. Cheese went bankrupt; as insolvent as that spreadsheet you’re using as a project management tool. 

For your implementation process to scale you need a few things:

  • Repeatability - The process cannot be ad hoc. You need to standardize best practices as templates and ensure they're used every time. It shouldn't take four hours to setup a project (the avg quoted by folks prior to using Baton), it should take four MINUTES (the avg time to setup a project in Baton).
  • Accountability - Every task needs to be assigned to the proper internal or external stakeholder, and confirmed that they can accomplish it by the date assigned. If not, how do you know when anything will get done?
  • Real-time Status - you need a tool that updates in real-time based on when and where people are getting their work done. Baton lets people work where they're comfortable (ie. Jira/Slack/Email/Salesforce..etc) and it pulls all that data in so you don't have to spend time chasing everyone down.
  • It needs to be reactive - Spreadsheets are great for giving projects structure, but the minute you send them out...that's it, if anything goes wrong you need to figure it out on your own and then....guess what...send out another email with an updated spreadsheet attached. That’s gonna drive everyone nuts! Conversely, with Baton you see in real time how projects are tracking and can take action to allocate resources, change deadlines or alert contributors of how to get back on track towards the established timeline or budget.
  • Visibility - You need to be able to give the client, internal management and all stakeholders a view into how each project is going. If the client is in the loop and knows the holdup is on their side, then their focus can be directed to their own resources  
  • First impressions are everything - Remember that girl or guy from HS you saw at a game and immediately had a crush on, and then you slipped and fell down the bleachers? Never mind. The point is you only get one shot to make a first impression. What do you think a spreadsheet of tasks says about your company and your product? If you sell "efficiency" or "productivity," do you think a spreadsheet conveys that?

I could go on and on. Just because spreadsheets are easy and they're there, doesn't mean professionals should use them. Especially when purpose-built platforms like Baton can help to scale your implementation process. You’ll recognize revenue sooner, hit the expectations set with your clients and move on to everything else you need to get done today.

 


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