Excel Is Not a Workflow System

Posted by Craig Probus
Craig Probus”

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If you're using Excel to manage critical business processes, you're taking a huge risk. Excel is a great tool for calculations and creating tables, but it was not designed to manage workflows or complex business tasks. This was hilariously summed up by Fortune when they published a laundry list of high-profile Excel bloopers.

It’s a story we have heard many times...There was a new business process and no system supporting the new workflow, so a proactive employee used Excel to organize the process and provide metrics. It worked in the beginning. Yet, over time this escalates into a serious problem as the Excel file grows and more people get involved in the workflow. 

The Problem

A common scenario is when the Sales team signs up a new client and needs to hand the work off to an Operations or Onboarding group. To track the process, the new request gets added as a row to the Excel file by the Sales team. The salesperson inputs the client name, order number, service/product purchased, and a deadline. The spreadsheet is often stored on Dropbox or Google Docs so that multiple team members can access the file at the same time. However, that can lead to overwriting each other’s changes. It’s a classic case of too many hands in the cookie jar. Over time, the spreadsheet grows to a few hundred records and keeps growing. Now the Operations team needs to manage the file, in addition to the other work they need to do! 

And what if a large order requires an approval process? An email is sent from the salesperson to the Operations team — if they remember — creating more moving parts and confusion. So, instead of having a simple organized system that enables the team, the company's time and money are spent supporting the system instead of the products.

The Solution

The key is to have a simple solution utilizing technology that lets you quickly build tools and provides consistent real time reporting. Many companies are already using a CRM or ticketing system that can support a workflow engine. For example, Salesforce.com and ServiceNow both provide great tools for quickly building a defined process with approval flows and validation rules. To apply these tools, you should plan accordingly:

  1. Make a list of processes along with their inputs & outputs
  2. Note which teams/roles take part in the processes
  3. Note which processes need approval flow or validation rules

Once you have a clear picture of your processes, determine if you can leverage an existing technology investment. If you can leverage your CRM or ticketing solution, it reduces the learning curve for imlpementation and provides a consistent interface for your teams.

The genius of modern cloud applications, such as Salesforce.com, is that they allow you to build an application using point & click tools, without any need for buying servers or configuring and maintaining hardware. You can build a workflow application in just days. The effort to learn these cloud applications is approximately the same as it is to learn the advanced features of Excel. In fact, many cloud solutions have visual tools to map out a business process, easing the learning curve. 

In the end, the investment to implement a new workflow system to manage business processes is much more cost-effective than creating Excel spreadsheets to manage processes. With a new system in place, your organization will benefit from having a consistent user interface, accurate reporting, and a much more efficient workflow.

If you need help developing a new workflow system, we can help. To speak with a workflow system expert, click the button below.

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Topics: Salesforce Optimization

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