Have you outgrown spreadsheets? Part 6: Supplementary information and ownership

Have you outgrown spreadsheets? Part 6: Supplementary information and ownership

business / spreadsheets
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For multi-stage, long running business processes, such as sales, order fulfilment, and project management, it is likely that additional (possibly non-structured) data will need to be recorded and multiple users may be responsible for completing different parts of the process.

This article is the sixth in a multi-part series explaining how spreadsheets can start to become a liability as your company grows, and how investing in bespoke systems can alleviate these issues, as well as bringing additional benefits.

It feels safe to say that spreadsheets really aren’t a good fit for these complex processes. Certainly, comments can be added but they are second class citizens are far as the spreadsheet is concerned—a small triangle in the corner of the cell to highlight the additional context. Their visibility is poor, requiring users to hover over each cells to see what extra information is hiding behind the triangle. Of course, they can be displayed all at once, at the expense of seeing the cells themselves, but that trades one problem for another.

Because custom software is developed to exactly meet your needs, if comments are a core part of your processes, they become a core part of your system and the screens that form the user-facing part bring these features to the fore. Perhaps comments are optional, perhaps they are required when handing over to a colleague for them to work on the next step. Whatever the requirement, your exact needs form the basis of every part of your software.

Another common requirement for multi-stage processes is for there to be some way for ownership of a process to be moved from one member of the team to another. For example, one person may be responsible for creating a proposal document and another is responsible for proof reading it and arranging a meeting with the client. The sky is really the limit when deciding how much structure you would like to have in the process but a simple version could be:

  • Each stage has a checklist that is followed and checked off to ensure nothing is missed.
  • A person assigns the process to themselves to complete their part, checking off each step as it is completed.
  • After their part of the process is complete, they update the data and assign the task to the next person.
  • Email notifications can be sent so that whoever is currently responsible is aware.

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Owner and chief coder

With nearly a decade of professional development experience, I have worked in the educational sector with the University of Cambridge, and with many private sector companies, including 118 118.