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  • Writer's pictureTeam Redman

Nine ways static spreadsheets may be hindering your strategic planning

Spreadsheets have been around since the 1980s, and if you’re still using them to track performance on your strategic plan, you’re not alone. With over 750 million users worldwide, Microsoft Excel is the traditional tool of choice for presenting and analysing data.

While static spreadsheets have their uses, are they costing your council unnecessary time, effort and resources? Are they falling short of providing a complete planning and reporting solution?

Here are nine ways that static spreadsheets may be hindering your strategic planning and reporting outcomes.

1. Reporting is manual, and it takes time.

Creating a spreadsheet might not seem daunting from the outset, but when you break it down, you realise there is more to this process than you thought. You have to gather data and verify its accuracy, create appropriate formulas without error, and manually convert your data into charts and graphs. You also need to factor in the time spent maintaining formulas that others have inadvertently changed. These seemingly small steps start to add up and become a significant drain on your time.

The lack of automation within spreadsheets can also increase the manual workload. When updates are due, you rely on human processes to notify your user base rather than tools that schedule notifications and reminders to track what is overdue.

2. There’s a lack of data integrity

Excel’s permission setting is great if you are trying to limit the entire file to read-only vs write. But if data integrity is important, then Excel might not be the best solution for you.

Once a strategic plan is developed and implemented, you rely on each user to update their progress on the deliverables they are responsible for. If someone is not paying attention and overwrites or deletes someone else's update, or provides an incorrect progress update to the wrong deliverable, then the integrity of your data is being compromised. There’s then the chance of uncontrolled versions being created due to users wanting to work with their own copies. This can result in incorrect and inconsistent business decisions and impact the quality of your strategic plan and tasks.

3. They can become extremely large and difficult to manage

Running an entire department or council’s operation on a spreadsheet is no small undertaking. Before you know it, you can have 100+ spreadsheets containing deliverables from multiple departments within multiple tabs. Trying to find the correct data to report on can confuse stakeholders, and depending on your computer’s resources and version of Excel, there are limitations when working with large spreadsheets.

4. Overall reporting is almost impossible

Have you ever tried to create a comprehensive report from all the progress updates in Excel and thought there must be a better way?

A spreadsheet is great for the initial creation of a strategic plan’s hierarchy, and if you’re using google sheets, it makes it easy to collaborate. However, when it comes to tracking your plan's progress and reporting overall progress to stakeholders unless you love to spend your days collating and summarising the information line by line, spreadsheets will become your foe rather than a friend.

5. Information can get lost in the clutter, and execution stalls

We’ve all seen those Excel spreadsheets that have been around for years, constantly being updated with new data — all the while becoming more cluttered and more difficult to decipher.

This is the result of manually building out your progress updates. Keeping everything in one place makes the most sense to gain the best understanding of your progress, but that much information in one place can go from being clear and concise to utter chaos in no time.

These complex spreadsheets may make sense to some, but for others, much of the data becomes meaningless and confusing, which can stall execution and become too complex for staff to keep track of.

6. Data can be difficult to analyse

An additional problem associated with a high volume of data presented by an excel document is the potential for misinterpretation and error when it comes time to analyse and put information into context. When tracking progress on your strategic plan, it is vital that you have an up-to-date and accurate understanding of what your organisation has achieved.

Misread or misinterpreted data provides an inaccurate picture of your overall strategic plan progress, hindering your ability to achieve goals and provide accurate reports to stakeholders.

7. Talent is going to waste

By the very nature of how spreadsheets are developed and shared, they are usually worked on by team members from all levels of an organisation, particularly when tracking progress on your strategic plan. So while it’s great that your top-level executives are well-versed in Excel, they shouldn’t be stuck fine-tuning spreadsheets or manually adjusting formulas or data points on a chart.

8. There’s no external visibility, trust or transparency

Communication creates engagement - especially when it's accurate, regular, and visually appealing. While spreadsheets keep everyone on track internally, how are you communicating your strategic plan with your community, volunteers, and partners?

Being able to demonstrate progress and performance enhances transparency, which then builds trust. But if there’s no way for anyone externally to see how your council is progressing, trust can be challenging to achieve.

9. Opportunities are being missed

While your team members are manually formatting spreadsheets and reports that could easily be created automatically, opportunities are falling by the wayside. It’s time to ditch those spreadsheets, let an automated tracking and reporting software take the reins, and allow your team more time to understand the data to effect positive change within your organisation.

Make static excel spreadsheets a thing of the past.

Spreadsheets are a business management and reporting tool that are simply unable to keep up with the high demands of busy and modern councils. Static tools lack the ability for businesses to automate their tracking and reporting, forcing your team to engage in tedious data entry regularly. Selecting the appropriate solution for your organisation is sure to mitigate your team’s wasted effort, time and resources and streamline your efforts toward achieving your overall strategic plan.

Discover how Envisio can transform the way you develop and execute plans and track performance.

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