Spreadsheets or specialized software? The answer to this question, just like many other we face daily, is a bit underwhelming;

It depends.

Before you get annoyed, let me explain.

People use spreadsheets for various purposes in different business aspects. As a matter of fact, Excel is still one of the most commonly used software tools in companies around the world.

It’s cheap, accessible and easy to learn (at least for basic day to day tasks). Advanced users argue that people take the tool for granted, not realizing its true potential. They like to say how it’s a versatile tool with flexible capabilities, and they’re probably right. Companies often employ new people based only on their ability to handle, optimize and create complex spreadsheets.

That must count for something, right?

It does. And before going further, I’ll just say it: Excel is a great tool! You’ll use it at one point, for better or for worse, so get familiar with it.

But (there’s always a but, right): it’s not omnipotent.

A jack of all trades is a master of none

There are companies that use Excel as a tool for lot more than it’s intended to be used.

  • Some use it as a main CRM driver.
  • It’s some’s main HR software.
  • It’s used as a project management tool.
  • Some use it for all budgeting, financial planning, and reporting related tasks…

There are many uses of spreadsheets, as we mentioned earlier, but some of them can easily become misuses. Can just one tool be ideal for any use? It can be useful, but it sure won’t excel… Heh.

In this post, I would mostly like to talk about the last category I mentioned: financial planning tasks, especially in the context of multi-employee teams.

We’ll just look at how would people go on doing some of the everyday planning activities using Excel, and then compare that to doing the same tasks using Farseer.

The effectiveness of a planning process often depends on how many people are involved. Intuitively, a larger team can do the job quicker, right? That’s often not the case.

To paint a clearer picture, let’s imagine a company of 30 employees. Let’s say that half of them are included in the process of creating a quarterly financial report for a project. That means that there are 15 people that need to have access to a spreadsheet with the data. I’ll mention a few scenarios that can (and fairly often they will) happen from this point on.

People are afraid of complicated spreadsheets

OK, the financial department will need some help at one point. Company planning is a complicated task, and they can’t do it all by themselves. So, they’ll send out an email with the spreadsheet attached to all 15 people. There will be some instructions on what data they need, and precisely how and where to enter it. But what happens when all those employees get that email? They open the attachment and see this for example:

Unnecessarily complicated spreadsheet in Excel

This is how a spreadsheet can seem at first to someone who didn’t create it.

They’ll be confused, they won’t understand the instructions, and they’ll probably procrastinate the simple task of filling out the cells that are assigned to them.

Now, let’s see how would this process look if that same team was using Farseer.

Instead of sending emails to multiple users, the financial department would simply create an input request for users whose data they need. That means that they have to click on the Input request button, and then select what data they want the user to fill out by selecting their flow. After that, an employee gets a notification, and sees something like this:

Quick editing a flow in the Farseer Dashboard

Quick editing a flow in the Farseer Dashboard

Note that in this case, only one cell available for entry. There’s less chance for confusion and procrastination because it’s obvious what needs to be done, and it’s easier for the user to do it than in the previous case.

It’s not always easy to create useful reports using spreadsheets

We agreed that some people that have advanced spreadsheet skills can make the most of all the available tools. But the majority of users aren’t advanced users. It’s hard for them to make sense of all available data and single out what’s really important. Additional problem is that some visualizations and graphs are not suitable for some data sets, and when used, they can easily lead to data misinterpretation.

Complicated Excel graph

This happens more often than you’d think

In Farseer, adding a new graph or a KPI table is as easy as pinning a note to a bulletin board. Users who want to closely examine certain parts of their data sets just click on the Add pin button in their Dashboard, and select what charts and graphs they want to add from the premade table and graph templates. No matter what table or graph they choose, Farseer automatically filters that pin data according to their user privileges – no one will see what they shouldn’t see.

Farseer Dashboard

An example of a personalized Dashboard in Farseer

Data sharing using spreadsheets takes a lot more time than it should

Just think how many e-mails must be sent when you have a team of 15 people involved in the planning process. At some point, someone will have to sync at least 15 different versions of the same spreadsheet file. It’s a lot of busywork and repetitive tasks. Few people enjoy that.

Or, there is another scenario where the entire team works on one shared file. In that case, it gets complicated to track all relevant changes. What happens in that situation is that there’s that one person from the office who’s in charge of the file. To avoid the potential mess, all other employees must go through them to make changes, or at least they must supervise all entries. Is that really saving anyone’s time?

Complex hierarchy relations

Imagine the time-consuming chaos that can emerge in this situation

In Farseer, every user can own their cluster, and all changes they make are synced automatically. No need to review or approve entries. If something needs to be done, the employee will simply get an input request (I mentioned this one earlier). Also, all users will be notified automatically if a change is made, and it’s relevant to them. If something needs to be discussed additionally, it can be done via the in-app messaging system. No unnecessary file exchanges, important attachments getting lost in inboxes or correcting other’s people’s mistakes. It saves a lot of time.

Single Source of Truth Farseer Scheme

It’s much more simple to have just one source of truth

I’ve only mentioned few of the benefits here, without getting too technical. If you would like to know more about Farseer or have questions and comments, I’ll be happy to help you, just leave a comment or contact us.