Have you ever seen any business that doesn’t make heavy use of spreadsheets? Right, me neither.
Here’s a technique I often use when working with a new client: I ask them “Show me your Spreadsheets!”
A lot of decision makers base their decisions off this or that spreadsheet. Even when there’s a costly ERP system involved, they normally use the “Export to Excel” feature, and then play with the data to find the answers to the questions they have.
Those questions they’re asking are often the most important part in their decision-making process. I want to know:
- What are those questions?
- Why are they important?
- Does the person have to enter additional data on the spreadsheet? if so, why is it not already captured in the system?
There are also cases where users export some data out to Excel and email the results out to somebody. I ask the users why they need to send that data and how it’s used. If they don’t know, I’ll go ask the recipient, which then may take me to the questions listed above.
This type of conversation of the clients, end users, businesses, help quite a bit in identifying the real business needs and them providing them the best solution (which could be a matter of addressing a workflow, coming up with a process, creating new software or changing existing ones, or a combination of those elements).
So, the next time you’re working with a client, give it a go: show me your spreadsheets!