To turn spreadsheet programs into an enterprise platform, you need to identify the early adopters willing to spread the love.
Katharine Stewart may behave as though she would be a great asset to the average finance department, but her passion for spreadsheets is no reason to make fun of her.
In a lifestyle column for the EU newspaper The Daily Record, Stewart talks about being focused on many of the things everyone else is focused on this time of year: shopping and vacation planning.
Unlike most people, however, Stewart believes you can “live your life in Excel,” and encourages those who follow her advice to “spread(sheet) the love.” All puns aside, she says working in columns and rows is much more intuitive than jotting free-form notes that inevitably get lost:
“So while my colleagues scoff at my checklist, I can’t go on holiday without it. It really is like a comfort blanket. Knowing that I can neatly tick the items off the list as I pack my case and tick them back in again when it’s time to go home makes me feel calm,” she writes. “While my behaviour may reek of OCD, it’s actually very relaxing. My outfits are planned and I have no need to scramble through my suitcase looking for forgotten items.”
Here’s the interesting thing about Excel: when people use it from the very beginning, all seems to go well. It’s only when it’s treated as a mere backup to a process that people tend to complain about it. BBC News recently ran a story, for example, which discussed how the recent election of Sadiq Khan was nearly derailed by a database problem. “London Mayoral count resorted to spreadsheets,” the headline lamented, as though pulling data out of Excel were as antiquated as recording stories on stone tablets.
Perhaps one of the key steps in turning Excel into a platform is finding an early champion who breaks through the stereotypes and demonstrates not only a willingness to use spreadsheets outside of finance departments but does so joyfully. If that person isn’t within your company today, look for champions outside. Take Ruan Oosthuizen, who published a post on the tech site Memeburn that make the case for spreadsheets in marketing departments:
“I have heard so many marketing managers complain about how they don’t like to work with numbers and budgets. In fact, I am sure one or two marketing managers have tossed and turned late at night over the thought of the looming excel spreadsheet which needs to get done. I, on the other hand, could not be more opposite. I can tinker away at a spreadsheet the whole day and not get enough of it.”
You can either jeer at people like Stewart and Oosthuizen, or you can join them. It’s not hard to figure out which route will likely make an individual, and perhaps even an entire organization, more successful in how they manage data and make decisions.
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