EP 018

Excel: The Sneaky Trap That's Costing You Time and Money

Excel, you know it and love it, but is it doing more harm than good when it comes to your business? Between the sunk costs, the never-ending updates to your spreadsheets, and the toll it takes on your sanity, you may find yourself trapped in an Excel cycle without even realizing it. We are here to help you move on from Excel before disaster strikes and show you the benefits of leaving it behind.

Mitch, Emma, and Mike discuss the reasons why Excel is not the solution to running your business and how it actually is costing you valuable time and money. If you want more resources regarding the trap of Excel, make sure to checkout Mike's recent blog post about this topic ⁠here.

Hosted By
Mitch Herrema
Emma Allport, CSM
Mike Bodell
Produced By
Mitch Herrema
Edited By
Eric Veeneman
Music By
Eric Veeneman

Transcript

Mitch Herrema (00:06):

Everyone, welcome back to the Make Other successful podcast where we aim to make you successful in your workplace, and then cascade that down to others so that it makes others successful. On and on and on. Today we have Mike Bodell returning. We have a newcomer, Emma Hall.

Emma Hall (00:24):

Hey,

Mitch Herrema (00:24):

Everyone. Say, yeah, say hello. Um, she's our delivery lead. We wanted to include her in this conversation. Today we're talking about the fact that Excel can be a trap for your organization. You might not realize it. So Mike, uh, wrote a blog not too long ago that we wanted to cover today and dig into and really just share some, some extended thoughts on how Excel can be a trap for you.

Mike Bodell (00:54):

Yeah. So that's a bit of a quite a statement, right? Excel being a trap, but I think that's what we kind of came, came down to in terms of some of our own experience and some of the, the experience we've had with customers where Excel is the primary tool for a variety of reasons. And you're plotting along, doing your job, getting things done, doing good things for your customers, not even really paying attention. And all of a sudden you look up one day and you realize that you're spending an inordinate amount of time, too much time monkeying around with those Excel files that mm-hmm. <affirmative> have been keeping your business running for the last 10 years we did it, there was, we probably, we had an Excel spreadsheet that, uh, we, for all intents and purposes, ran the business out of when we were two, three people. Um, and we did that for four or five years before we finally bit the bullet and got away from it.

Mitch Herrema (01:51):

Yeah. Yeah. If I had a nickel for all the times I heard about that Excel spreadsheet, <laugh>, <laugh>, uh, yeah, it was a lot. I mean, it's all for good reason, though. It's so easy to build if, like, if you have a limited understand standing of spreadsheets.

Mike Bodell (02:06):

Absolutely.

Mitch Herrema (02:07):

Yeah. There's no doubt that like you can spin something up really

Mike Bodell (02:10):

Quick. Yep. Right. You can organize your data, uh, you can make things pretty. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you can filter and sort and do all, all of those fun things. And, you know, even import data, export data, there's a lot of things that you can do with Excel and it's relatively cheap, right? Right. If you've got an office license, you, you're using it. You have it at your disposal. And so it's a logical solution for a lot of people.

Emma Hall (02:32):

I, I think the word scrappy comes to mind for me. It's sort of the small business owner's solution to like quick and easy and what's going to be a cheap solution to get things running and set up. Um, I've worked for different businesses where we used Excel for all of our financials even, um, just at the beginning. And I think maybe the third or fourth monthly cycle you get through that takes three days to sort out what formula error is causing the entire, that you finally think, Hey, maybe there's a better way. But sometimes you don't notice that you're wasting that much time. So

Mitch Herrema (03:06):

Was there one master Excel file somewhere

Emma Hall (03:09):

At one of the businesses I worked at? Yes. Yep. Yeah.

Mitch Herrema (03:12):

How did they keep that? Like <laugh>, like was it stored somewhere?

Emma Hall (03:16):

Probably not that <laugh>

Mitch Herrema (03:18):

People just kept sending copies around or

Emma Hall (03:21):

Whatever. Yeah, yeah. No, I think it, yeah. It was very much emailed or no one touched this one person's going to deal with it uhhuh and could take hours to figure out what's wrong with it. Phone.

Mike Bodell (03:31):

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. The other scenario that I, that's big in my mind is the scenario where there was an estimate, a project estimate spreadsheet mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? That was emailed around to anybody who was involved in pre-sales effort, right? If you're an engineer mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and you had to estimate a portion of a project, right. Use that spreadsheet, and if you didn't have it, you could ask somebody for it and they'd send you a version of it and nobody ever had the same version of it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Because it evolved over the years and every time whatever version you got of it from somebody else, you would make adjustments to it because you thought that was a good idea. And so then you had your own version, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, everybody has different versions and it all works, you know, two years down the road everybody's estimating things differently, right. To mess

Mitch Herrema (04:14):

<laugh>. Okay. So the first point that you pull out in your blog is the idea of sunk cost. Let's dig into sunk cost a little bit more. What can you tell us about

Mike Bodell (04:26):

That? Yeah, so the idea of sunk cost is you'll get yourself in a situation pretty quickly. Like let's say you're running your financials, which we did for a while, right? Um, you'll be built like it, it starts with a simple, I imported some data and I'm doing a pivot chart from it, right? And then pretty quickly you realize, well, it would be nice if I had another calculation on this data so that I could show another facet mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, so that I could understand something, you know, at a different level. And so you'll add that and then, um, somebody new will come along and have another idea about something that would be useful. And so you'll add that to it. And then before you know it, uh, you're managing basically something that's seven layers deep. Uh, seven layer dip would be a way to look at it. Um, and in order to do anything with that, in order to move away from it, all of a sudden it becomes very difficult because you've invested so much already. Yeah. Um, and you can't possibly wrap your mind around how easy it could be to move to a different system that could just do those things, or most of them, 90% of them outta the box maybe, right?

Mitch Herrema (05:38):

Yeah. What if they feel like they have something so custom now

Mike Bodell (05:41):

Right there? Because if you live in that world for five years right, and you've been making those changes, uh, you know deeply about all of those calculations and you're, in some ways you become partial to them mm-hmm. <affirmative> and no, nobody else could possibly understand what you've done, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so the amount of effort that you perceive it will take to unwind all of that and do something different is insurmountable. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? And after all, you've already invested what you've invested, so you might as well keep using it.

Mitch Herrema (06:10):

Yeah. So the, which is yeah, the whole premise of the topic of, so, uh, it's a trap, right? It's digging your own grave, like every day you're using it. Yeah. The further and further it goes.

Mike Bodell (06:20):

Yeah. And once you're in, it's, it becomes very hard to get out. Yeah. Like it took us, uh, quite a bit of rethinking to be willing to move away from the system that we had. Yeah.

Emma Hall (06:30):

And I think a trap I fell in once as an employee, as a, a boss had asked me, Hey, could you create a spreadsheet that shows data this way with this on top, this envelope, you know, below these types of graphs? And I could create it. It took many days and a lot of VEing with different, you know, merging different things. I created it, sent it to him, he loved it. Now I wanted that every week. Yeah. And I think that's, it just speaks to you're digging your own grave of you can do whatever you want in Excel, customize it completely, but you have to think about how much time you're actually spending to create that. Right. Because then once you get it and you like it, hang on a second, is this actually worth the output that we're creating? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, is it worth how much time you're spending managing it? Right.

Mitch Herrema (07:13):

Absolutely. Yeah. We were just talking to a client the other day about how their customer needs reports and one of the, the employees there has to finagle all the data. Yeah, yeah. Regularly

Emma Hall (07:25):

We all

Mitch Herrema (07:26):

Do it. Right. Right, right. And it's a little bit painful. And so we're opening a dialogue, uh, about some of the, the ways that that can be better.

Mike Bodell (07:35):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. That's the way to look at it. And it's, it's tough cuz not only did you like do the work to build all of those things, right? And so, you know, you think, well, it's too hard to rebuild that in something else or to find something else that will do those things. But you're right, the cost associated with, and the time that you spend feeding mm-hmm. <affirmative> that system mm-hmm. <affirmative> with new data, uh, every week or every day or however often you do it, um, you know, multiply that times 52. Yes. You know, two hours a week, times 52, it adds up pretty quick. You kind of build, built the cell around yourself, right? You right. You put the bars, the, the bricks, um, and all for good re all for good purpose, right? Right.

Mitch Herrema (08:15):

Yeah. Every and every two hours, like you're calling out in your blog, it's an investment. Like anytime you're mm-hmm. <affirmative> keeping on using it, it's an investment in that

Mike Bodell (08:25):

Thing. You're, you're pouring more into that thing. Right. Which makes it harder to walk away from. Right?

Mitch Herrema (08:30):

Yep. And I, like you called out, uh, one statement was you shouldn't wait for disaster before you pick your head up. Hmm. Yeah. I think that is so common for, it needs to get really bad before someone realizes

Mike Bodell (08:46):

Yeah. We often choose the path of least, least resistance, right? So whatever's the least painful thing we're going to do. So if you're in that system where you're spending two hours a week feeding it with data, right? Maybe you're adding some formulas, like that's the easy thing to do, um, as opposed to rethinking how you're doing it and should you be using a different system or a different tool. Um, so you keep choosing the easy thing, but one day something terrible will happen, disaster will strike <laugh>, and then what becomes the easy thing to do mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? You'll be forced into a situation and it will completely upset and distract you from the mission that you have that you should have. And you'll be spending a week and a half, two weeks finding a new solution or fixing a spreadsheet or trying to recover a file that got deleted inadvertently,

Emma Hall (09:34):

Or potentially things choosing the wrong solution. Right. Because you're,

Mike Bodell (09:38):

Because you're in a hurry. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.

Mitch Herrema (09:42):

Uh, so the, you conclude this section with just saying that all of the opportunities, all the times that you open up that Excel file and see someone change a formula or did something new is an opportunity to make something.

Mike Bodell (09:58):

Ask the question, ask the question, ask the question. Absolutely.

Mitch Herrema (10:00):

Yeah. Yeah. And so then you transition into this section locked in your cell, are you gonna throw away the key? And we have this fun, uh, Photoshop of Mike <laugh> in a jail cell. It, it's, it looks like he's in Excel and he's trying to escape. Um, let's talk about this section a little bit

Emma Hall (10:18):

For those of us who have been in that jail cell <laugh>. I think that picture really resonates though. Yeah. Because it's very true

Mike Bodell (10:24):

<laugh>. Yeah. I think the question is, what are you gonna do once you find yourself in that situation? Like if you realize it, um, you know, it's one thing to be starting a business or starting a new venture or maybe a new process and using Excel as kind of a prototyping tool or something like that. But I think, um, at some point you have to ask yourself the question, is this the right tool? Long term, right. Are you, are you doing something that's core to the business?

Emma Hall (10:47):

Right. Is it holding us back from growth? Yeah. Because it's not allowing us to scale this over multiple projects because I have to manage this per project, or Yeah.

Mike Bodell (10:55):

Yep. And I think your choice to keep building things right, to keep adding to it is not necessarily throwing away the key, but it's like I'm, I've, I'm maybe gonna throw this away. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I'll put it back in my pocket. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, um, but if you just keep doing that, you're in essence kind of, you lost the key, you're throwing it away. Yeah. And, uh, it makes it harder to get out of that jail.

Mitch Herrema (11:20):

Yeah. I like another thing that you called out was the precision and efficiency I thought I had created was being crushed by all the new demands on my time.

Mike Bodell (11:31):

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's a good one. So this, in our specific scenario, the spreadsheet informed us about everything that was going on in the business.

Mitch Herrema (11:42):

Financially.

Mike Bodell (11:43):

Financially. Yeah. And we, a lot of work went into it so that we could have all of the different calculations, the numbers that we wanted, that would help us make decisions, uh, help us get paid, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> help us pay other people, right? It was literally all in the spreadsheet and, um, that we talked about like the two hours a week, right? You have to maintain feed that thing. And so for a period of time, it was okay to spend two hours a week feeding that thing, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that was part of running the business. And as the business grows, right, you're faced with a situation with where you have more demands on your time, right? More customer demands, uh, you know, more lead generation demands, more content creation demands, all of those things. Helping other, helping other people, right? Helping people grow.

(12:34):

And so that thing that you created that you were so enamored with that was doing really great things for you, all of a sudden becomes so like the last thing you want to do mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Because you need to do all of those other things. And so then you're faced with a situation where, where you have to make a choice between feeding that thing and knowing what's going on in the business and taking care of that end of it, or being able to grow your business. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> actually grow the business, right? And so that thing, just like, uh, there was no diminishing amount of time, right? You couldn't make it any more effective than it was. Right? It still took two hours a week.

Mitch Herrema (13:13):

Right. And I feel like it's probably really easy to look at that two hours and just say, that's an operational expense, that's just a given. It's, it is what it is. And not even like, trigger the thought of something

Mike Bodell (13:27):

Could be different. Well, and you remember, um, as we went through that transition, some of the push on me was, well, like, you need to have somebody else on the team do that. And I was like, no, I can't allow that to happen. Uhhuh <affirmative>, right. For various reasons, right? There's sensitive data there. Like, there's a lot of stuff that was there, right? There's the fact that it's all kind of shoestring together, and if you do something not quite right, right. It falls apart. And so then you

Emma Hall (13:55):

Know all the

Mike Bodell (13:56):

Little Yeah. You know, all the little things, right? Of course. So, so it wasn't reasonable to think that we could actually offload that operations, you know, overhead to somebody else. Um, and so it, like, it became, it, it was something we had to wrestle with, but it became pretty clear pretty quickly that, uh, that was not gonna be a good long term option. Mm-hmm.

Emma Hall (14:15):

<affirmative>. And here at our company, we, we track our time, so, you know, oh, it's two hours. I spent, I think at a lot of places where you're not tracking your time, you almost don't even actually have a real handle on how much time you're spending on wrangling some of these sheets. I know I didn't at other places I've worked. And then, then the challenge is I'm sure we'll talk about it. We could talk about it now, just budget wise. So how do you understand what the sunk cost is of how much time your team is spending, right. On wrangling this so that then you can justify the investment of what I'm sure it will cost to actually bring in a solution. Um, whether it's a separate industry specific tool, um, or it's just investing and figuring out how to use a Microsoft tool that maybe you, your license already has, but Sure.

Mike Bodell (15:01):

Yeah. Yeah. That's an interesting question. And like, that's really all about value, right? Yeah. Um, and you know, when you first start something out, Excel is the cheap tool and what you're doing, you don't have any kind of idea of the value that it will be mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? This thing that you need to accomplish. And at that moment in time, it really doesn't have a whole lot of value to you, right? Because you probably could operate for a year without it. Right. Figure out how to make it work. Um, but if you actually look at whatever that thing is that you're doing and say, well, this is gonna be a core thing in my business for the next 10 years, well, then you can calculate some value, right? Right. Two hours a week times 10 years, we can actually talk about something.

Mitch Herrema (15:44):

Okay. I think we've established the premise. If you're, if you're out there watching, you understand kind of the, the, the weight of what we're talking about, uh, to, to finish off this section, people often say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But what if you don't know that it's broken? I think we're kind of raising a flag and saying, Hey, this thing might be a little bit broken. Think about it just, just for a moment. So you go then into your next section, do you have a team? Here's your sign. So how do we Yeah. Approach this?

Mike Bodell (16:18):

Well, so the one thing you mentioned earlier was every time you look at that spreadsheet and you're like, oh, I need to add a new feature to it, or do something to make it do something different, ask the question. Right? That's the first thing I'll say. Should I be still doing this? Should I be investing more? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But I think a real easy indicator that should tell you, should you or should you not be doing something in an Excel spreadsheet? That's a core business thing would be do you have a team? Are you more than one person? Right? Because if you're more than one person, chances are you're not the only person who needs access to that information or that data, and you're not the only person who's gonna feed that data. And if you put yourself in a situation where everything is in Excel, it's much too difficult to make sure that disaster doesn't happen and somebody wipes your data out, that you're both or multiple people are able to edit the document, edit the file at the same time, and do it effectively and not trump all over each other and control access to the right data.

(17:13):

Right? That's another mm-hmm. <affirmative> like, I own the business, it's okay if I see all of the sensitive data, right? But it's not, okay, Mitch, if you see all the sensitive data, right? Right. So, um, if you have a team and you're all working together on core pieces of business and the data's, you know, feeding into something, then you're doing some reports you care about who sees what. Right? And so that matters. So the minute that you have a team, the minute that you're more than one person, you ought to kind of look at your situation and say, should there be something different than Excel to run our process or run our business, or whatever it the thing is that you're doing, um, that would be an opportunity to do something better. Yeah.

Emma Hall (17:51):

I really relate to what you said too about, you know, the quirks, right? If I think that's another piece Yeah. Of if you're sitting there and you're thinking, wow, this is gonna be really hard to explain this to someone else, because how do I explain that this cell always has to have 28,000 added to it, just so things balance out or whatever it is. Yeah. You know, just these little like silly things that you figure out, um, that's a sign that you're not gonna be able to scale very well if you can't end up delegating this task Yeah. To someone.

Mike Bodell (18:19):

Yeah. So to that point, Mitch, do you remember the days where it would be like a Monday morning and all of a sudden my keyboard would be going, clack, clack, clack, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click. Because I was copy pasting uhhuh <affirmative> because I couldn't fill down because of the way the data was or something like that. Like bang, bang, bang, bang. I do

Mitch Herrema (18:35):

Remember that.

Mike Bodell (18:36):

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So that's what was

Emma Hall (18:37):

Going on. I relate to that,

Mike Bodell (18:38):

Mike. And so when you're like, Hey, you need to have Jill do this Uhhuh <affirmative>, like, why aren't we having Jill do this? I'm like, no way. I take

Emma Hall (18:45):

Too long.

Mike Bodell (18:45):

There is no way I'm gonna ask her to do

Emma Hall (18:46):

That because

Mike Bodell (18:47):

Right. Right. And so that's one of those scenarios like, oh, I have a team. Jill could do this. She's on, like, it should be a different tool. Right? Right.

Emma Hall (18:56):

But isn't that the classic? It's, I had a sheet like that too. I knew it would just be faster than to try to figure out how to redo all of it so that I could not have to copy. Right. I just knew if I took the three minutes and, but it's so inefficient.

Mike Bodell (19:08):

It's, it's horrible. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I'll, I'll tell you, like many people are like task driven. You love checking stuff off. You can get caught up in doing those things. And we're, maybe we're off topic a little bit here, but you get caught up in doing those things and they become a little bit like a security blanket. Every Monday morning I show up and I, you know, I punched the clock and then I do this thing, and you feel accomplished at the end of it. Right. You're like, oh, I can check that off the list this week. Um, but if you want to actually be better and grow and like have a, a better business, you should find other things to spend your time on. Right. Right.

Mitch Herrema (19:43):

That reminds me, sorry, that, that reminds me of, uh, friend of mine that worked for, uh, I think it was an automotive painter or some kind of manufacturing painter, and they said, me and this other guy, were the only ones that can paint this thing. Everyone else tries it and they fail and they can't do it, but guess what? We won't train anyone how to do it. We won't tell anyone how to do it. <laugh>. And I'm like, I get it. I, I get it. Why? But come on, that's a little bit

Mike Bodell (20:12):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Yeah.

Mitch Herrema (20:13):

It's shortsighted and like,

Emma Hall (20:15):

But I think some of that does, it comes back to, and this might be off topic too, but it does come back to control and having an Excel document that you can fully customize and you fully control as the business owner, like you said, sometimes feels good in the moment. Yeah. Of, yes, I have control of this, but you don't always see that's the, it's the trap, right? Right. Yeah. You don't always see necessarily how much is actually gonna hold you back the, your growth back or maybe even hurt your team currently. Yep.

Mike Bodell (20:41):

Yep.

Mitch Herrema (20:42):

Okay. So people, they understand the problem. We've established that they get, they probably owe something better to their team every time that they're building onto this thing. They're, they're digging a little bit deeper, but let's, let's cast a little bit of what this greener pasture looks like. What's, what's this better world? The first thing that you call out in your blog is less than the ta the first thing you call out in your blog is less limitations.

Mike Bodell (21:07):

Yeah. So in that scenario, I was talking about data limitations and, you know, there's a, like, you can put a lot of data in Excel, but the reality is there is a limitation, particularly when it comes to processing the data. So if you have a lot of formulas in your spreadsheet, for example, like we had once upon a time like that spreadsheet got to a point where it, like, I had to sit and wait for it to like calculate stuff right. Before I could do the next thing that, like, that was the sign. I was like, okay, it's, it's time to jump out of this thing. And, you know, Excel is like, it's, it's a great tool for organizing data, but once you hit, you know, a hundred thousand rows, like you should be looking at something else, um, you know, there, there are a lot of tools out there.

(21:49):

You can be much more effective with that, that can deal with that type of data. And, you know, Excel is, it's just what Excel is, it's just spreadsheets, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, when you're talking about real world data and you, you need to start thinking about things like transactional data versus analytical data, right? And what that looks like, right? The transactional data is stuff that happens every day. Uh, it's the, I'm running my business with it today. I'm tracking all of the stuff, the analytical stuff as well. I wanna look at what happened in the last five years, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so in our scenario, we had, you know, five years worth of data Yeah. In a spreadsheet. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? It was a ma it was terrible. Yeah.

Mitch Herrema (22:26):

Yeah. It's also harder to run a business process from it, right? It like connect to the right part of your business process with that Excel spreadsheet, like

Mike Bodell (22:36):

Absolutely. Yeah. Hard to integrate, right? Yeah. Hard to integrate. That's what, like we talk about the two hours you spent every Monday, or I spent every Monday and then was copy paste, right? Right. Export from some other system. Yeah. Right. And copy it and paste it into ours.

Emma Hall (22:49):

Well, that's what I was gonna say. Terrible. The, the, from an agile perspective, the iteration process, so let's say talk about Excel templates. So, okay, we've got this great budget template we wanna use for every project. Oh, we decided we really think that we should change or add this feature. Well, you have 18 projects or 50 projects using that template. Yeah. You're gonna go change every single one of those. Oh, well now it broke a formula. It's, it's just that scalability and Right. It's that you in Excel, you're forced to kind of set it and forget it because you can't really go and actually change it across the business. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, one of the benefits changing it, one place won't change it everywhere.

Mike Bodell (23:24):

In that scenario that you just called out, one of the benefits of moving away from Excel, uh, that would be like casting off a limitation, is if early on you figure out that you need to move away from Excel, so you're not tracking stuff in a bunch of different project files, budget files, right. And you start collecting that data in some sort of cohesive system mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Then you have the benefit of doing historical reporting on it very easily. Absolutely. Right? So even in that scenario, where're like, oh, we changed the spreadsheet now formula broke, or whatever. Let's say you've got 50 projects over the last couple years, like how do you take all of that data and actually look at it in one place? Right. It's difficult to do

Emma Hall (24:04):

That necessary. And then doing, I just excel spreadsheets, you almost end up with a bunch of apples and oranges because then you have to do, the word dangling just keeps coming to mind because you have to do a lot of fanging to make this spreadsheet that we used five years ago equal what we're now using. Right. And then to do any historical comparison becomes it's not even worth it at that point. Yeah. Yeah. And

Mike Bodell (24:23):

That's a very classic, real classic

Mitch Herrema (24:24):

Real limitation map. This column to this column, like Yeah, yeah. Yep. It got renamed. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. The next thing you called out is better access.

Mike Bodell (24:33):

Yeah. So I talked a little bit about it before, like if, if you've got a team, right? You've probably got an HR person, maybe you've got a finance person, you've got, you're doers, right? You're people who are focused on customers and everybody needs different access to the data. So take a simple like task tracking tool or project, you know, time management tool or whatever. Uh, the doers are gonna be telling you what they did, and so they need access to their stuff and they need to be able to create entries, right? The finance person needs access to everybody's entries, right? Um, and so all of those things you can't do very well, if at all with Excel, right? Right. So graduating to some other tool, maybe it's a line of business app that you find off the shelf, like that could work for you, or, um, something you build no code, low code, let's say.

Mitch Herrema (25:28):

Um, which I'll say we have a whole episode on choosing the right technology for your business, so Yep. Yeah. Yeah. We would recommend that if, if you're considering some of that, right?

Mike Bodell (25:39):

Right. Um, but all of those tools, generally speaking, if you start to either, even if you're just, if you're building on your own, um, you should think about those features that you're building in terms of who has access to what, right? So what data they have access to, what buttons you put in front of 'em, right. To click, uh, that type of stuff. And many off the shelf apps are gonna have that type of feature or access based on roles already built in, right?

Mitch Herrema (26:02):

Yep. Yeah. Especially <laugh>. The thing that comes to mind is just that what I was mentioning to Emma about emailing the Excel file around, or Oh, yeah. Where does it live on the file drive, like file server and whose copy is the correct copy? All of that

Emma Hall (26:17):

Stuff. Now, when you're naming your Excel file, V 17 point, a

Mitch Herrema (26:22):

Final final stop

Emma Hall (26:23):

Yeah. There's,

Mike Bodell (26:24):

There's

Emma Hall (26:24):

Another sign. That's when, you know. Yeah.

Mike Bodell (26:26):

Yeah.

Mitch Herrema (26:27):

Cool. So we have less limitations, we have better access. Last is better features. We've touched on it a little bit already, but I think I'm gonna just, uh, run through these bullets. Role-based access, like you just mentioned. Yep. Data integration, process automation, better workflow and user experience, audit trails and expanded delivery platforms like web, desktop, and mobile.

Mike Bodell (26:51):

Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, I guess you can edit Excel on your mobile phone now, right? Yeah. It's <laugh>.

Mitch Herrema (26:58):

You can

Mike Bodell (26:58):

Try, uh, if anybody's ever tried to do that, it's, it's a real pain, but hey, you know, if to each's own, but yeah, all of those things are things that you potentially get with solutions out that are not Excel, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, we talked about role-based access integration is a big one. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Being able to have methods and timing for connecting, either sending data to other systems or pulling data in from other systems, right. Um, is hugely valuable. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> that eliminates the copy paste that we all do, right. Or have done mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so that's, that's a big deal. Um, overall better, like you talk about access, like you can build an app for mobile and make it so that the user is just touching and scanning and doing those types of things to feed the data into the system. Right. Um, and you don't have that ability at all with Excel. Right? Right. There's a lot of stuff there. And then

Mitch Herrema (27:52):

One, one example, sorry. Yeah. Is we're working with a client right now where they have an expense process where their employees build a long list of, Hey, here's what I spent this month, here's all the, the job codes and amounts and all that. And then they have to send it to accounting, and they have to process it in very manual process. And so we're sort of opening the door to what does it look like for an employee just when they spend money, log the expense in, it goes to the accounting team when it's appropriate automatically

Emma Hall (28:25):

And not not having to sit at their desk to log the expense. Right? Right, right. It's just mobile, it's,

Mike Bodell (28:30):

Yeah. Yep. Yeah. It makes the whole process better. It makes the people involved. Uh, number one, you're, you're gonna, you're gonna lose less data, I think, because if you're not doing something like that, if you're not managing that process end to end where data comes in one place and then somebody needs to look at it and then it, something else happens to it. If you're trying to do all of that from an Excel spreadsheet, there's humans involved and something's gonna get missed. Right. Um, but then just the overall user experience of connecting, you know, the front side of that all the way to the backside of it, um, and, you know, providing prompts for people. Let's say, do you, you know, approve this expense, please, you know? Yeah. And somebody can say yes or no. Yeah. Right. Um, is a whole different ballgame than getting an email that says, Hey, I just plugged in 10 rows into that spreadsheet. Can you go take a look when you have time or

Mitch Herrema (29:17):

No notification or No, it just shows

Mike Bodell (29:18):

Up, right? Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Mitch Herrema (29:20):

The only thing I'll point out on the integration piece is that as we've graduated from the Excel spreadsheet, one integration we've been, uh, appreciative of is when we log our time, it gets associated with a project, but that project forecast also integrates with another tool which we use to resource to, to forecast our resources. And so it's all just completely tied together. It's not like, Hey, how many hours did you spend on that project? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and us see the burn down in a different tool, like, or have to move it directly over there. It's all just linked up and it's really nice. Yeah. We couldn't have done that with a Excel spreadsheet.

Mike Bodell (30:02):

No. Yeah. Forecast is something that we struggled with for years trying to figure out <laugh> how to do it. Right. Um, and in that particular scenario, the, the organization or the company that we, that is our vendor for time tracking, had that sister tool. Right. That was easy to integrate. Yeah.

Mitch Herrema (30:18):

Yeah. All right. So we've established that they get less limitations, better access, better features, what can they do about it? You have outlined that, you know, a couple things in your blog, we'd recommend if you wanna read some examples and scenarios, um, we'll have Mike's blog link in the description or show notes of this. We'd recommend you check that out, but maybe you can just give us a, a high level.

Mike Bodell (30:41):

Yeah, yeah. I would encourage you to go check that out without going into too much detail. Basically, I was trying to paint a picture of you did this work, you know, some sizable level of effort and you did that thing in Excel. What are some possible options that, those things that you did map to in other mm-hmm. <affirmative> tools, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, what other forms might they take? Um, sure. And I simply point out kind of that mapping so that you can kind of assess your own situation and go, oh, okay, maybe I should look at these other things as options. Yep. So that was the intent. Okay.

Mitch Herrema (31:09):

Sounds good. A lot of the examples I'm seeing are, we're, we're biased, we're Microsoft folks, uh, here at Bulb. So if you are too, those might be helpful. If you're, um, trying to evaluate something maybe higher level, you need some sort of app off the shelf, or you wanna maybe go custom or any of those things. Again, I would just point you to our episode about choosing the right technology for your business. We, we talk about it at length, but it's, uh, honestly really helpful. So to wrap up, let's give a moment of encouragement. Just share maybe how we've seen benefits from what we've done and how, how can people get ahead of

Mike Bodell (31:44):

It? Yeah. Well, I think the thing that I would say is, uh, you're not alone. There's a mm-hmm. <affirmative> billion people on the planet that are using Excel for something that's important. Um, and so know that, uh, I think 90 some percent of our customers, not that we work on a specific process that came out of Excel, but like we hear about something that they're doing with Excel, where we go, oh, there's an opportunity. Right? Um, and many of our customers were actually doing things with them, um, to make that situation better and kind of get them out of that trap. Um, and as we, I think one of the fun things for me doing what I do is learning how bad other people's traps actually are and finding out how much great impact we can have Yeah. By getting, getting 'em outta that trap. And so there are a lot of good options out there, and a lot of frankly cost effective options. Yeah. If you're willing to just look around and do a little bit of work. Yeah. Yeah. Which, if you're in a bad trap, you did some work already,

Mitch Herrema (32:38):

So I, you're willing.

Emma Hall (32:40):

Yeah. Great. That's, that's the encouragement I'd give of, if you're working at a place where you feel the mindset is, well, this is always how we've done it, or, um, you know, there's, there's no cost effective solution, so we just have to keep doing it this way. I would just challenge that idea and, you know, encourage people to, like we had talked about the value conversation. Take a second, think through how much it might be slowing your business down, your team, down your time down. Um, try to put a value on that and then have a frank conversation with leadership about, I think we could actually really save time, money, X, y, z mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, I, if we look at some other solutions, and like Mike was saying, there are a lot of solutions out there that are actually very cost effective. So you don't have to feel intimidated that you're going to have to change everything or spend all of your budget, um, on overhauling your technology. So that'd be my encouragement cuz I have definitely worked places that were trapped in Excel and now that I work here, I'm realizing there's a new better way. <laugh>.

Mitch Herrema (33:39):

Yeah, that's good. The thing that I'll tag onto the value conversation is, is it is extremely hard sometimes to put an actual dollar figure on it. True. But you can, like, you can, even if it's an estimate mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you can get a rough number and sometimes it can be kind of, uh, sober,

Emma Hall (33:58):

Surprise sober.

Mitch Herrema (33:59):

Yeah. Uh, so sometimes yeah, you might say, how fast can I get out of this trap? Mm-hmm. So, cool. Thanks for the conversation, Mike. Again, props on the blog. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's, it's been a fun one to kind of share and dig into. Emma, thanks for joining us for your first, first go at this. She, she was, uh, it's been great Last episode. If you watched, she gave our little intro that was just her first, uh,

Emma Hall (34:25):

Ore Yeah. Or

Mitch Herrema (34:25):

Thanks for having me to the podcast. So happy to have you and thanks for listening. We'll see you next time.

+ Expand Transcript

Related Episodes

EP 17

Your Business Is More Than the Work You Do

Listen
EP 2

Onboarding in a Modern Workplace

Listen