Microsoft Excel is one of the most commonly used business tools today. This is understandable, considering the versatility of what is essentially a relational database of information with an easy-to-use front end interface. I have used spreadsheets to maintain an address list for holiday cards, catalog my extensive CD collection (remember when people actually BOUGHT compact discs?), develop a personal budget and countless other purposes. When building a safety or compliance program, Excel is often our go-to solution because it is essentially free, easy to use and can be tailored for a number of different business needs. However, as your safety or compliance program matures, I have found four main reasons why you should kick the spreadsheet habit:
1. Lack of data integrity – We all love our spreadsheets, especially when it comes to generating easily digestible charts and graphs to present data to others in our organization. But there is nothing worse than presenting a chart in a meeting, being questioned on the information displayed, and realizing that someone, somewhere has mistyped a value or worse yet, broken a formula being used to calculate the data being charted. Once burned like this, we quickly learn to spend extra time reviewing (and reviewing and reviewing) all of the data entered to make sure that we have reliable information the next time around. What else could we do with all that time?
2. Lack of data security – Another challenge as your program grows is giving other people access or visibility to the spreadsheet. Depending on the data collected, you may not be comfortable with other people seeing all of your data. In response, you either refuse to give them access (thereby eliminating their ability to help with the program) or spend extra time sending each person a version of the spreadsheet filtered and locked down to only their data. Once again, this takes extra time out of your day that could be spent more productively. Even worse, what if you inadvertently make the wrong data visible to the wrong people?
3. Lack of flexibility in viewing data – Once you start sharing the spreadsheet or sending it to others, you realize that the 38 columns of data that you feel are important are not important to others in your organization. Other than manually hiding columns, your colleagues are left with the exact same (potentially overwhelming) view of the data collected. It may seem like a small matter, but a system with a user interface that allows for the hiding of columns in each user’s personal view ensures that users can personalize their view of the data rather than being forced to work within a static view that doesn’t take into account how each user may work best with the data.
4. Lack of process consistency – Spreadsheets are great for holding and displaying data, but your program deserves more than that. You need a way to ensure that safety or compliance matters are handled with a consistent, effective approach. Simply requiring users to enter raw data points into a spreadsheet does not guarantee that the data points are gathered in the same way. Even with the most stringent SOPs, what is essentially a fill in the blank approach with your spreadsheet is not going to enforce that procedures are properly followed every time.
While there are a number of reasons to move to more robust, mature solutions for your safety and compliance needs, these should be four of the more obvious drivers for kicking your spreadsheet habit. Let Mitratech show you how!