For most small businesses, using spreadsheets to organize data makes sense: They are free, fairly self-explanatory, and customizable, and forms like Google spreadsheets are easy to share. So it’s no wonder that almost 89 percent of organizations use spreadsheets to track budgets, planning, and forecasting processes.
But as your company grows, spreadsheets often struggle to keep up with the growing demand for data. Soon, the need to keep spreadsheets updated, organized, and accessible becomes an obstacle rather than a resource.
We’d love to see your business grow. We also realize that spreadsheets have limitations in supporting that potential. And since your competition won’t tell you, we will: Using spreadsheets to track operations is holding you back.
Let’s break down four of the most common signs of spreadsheet growing pains and discuss why using a customer relationship management (CRM) system can keep your data on pace with business growth in a competitive environment.
1. Prone to Errors
Spreadsheets are accessible, but can you trust the data? Experts have doubts. “Whether due to the need to manually enter data, a lack of clarity about whether you are working from the most recent version, or the potential for overwrites, spreadsheets are rife with opportunities to erode the integrity of your data,” warn experts at smartsheet.com.
How bad can it be? Pretty bad: According to a study of data organization in spreadsheets by Karl W. Broman and Kara H. Woo, around 90 percent of spreadsheets contain minor to severe errors. This is especially troubling for companies that rely on these metrics for making decisions on resource distribution, for example, or to determine the financial state of their business. Faulty data leads to costly mistakes.
2. Hard to Keep Current with Daily Changes
In some cases, WHEN the data is updated can be just as important as the data itself. But when managers rely on team members to add data, it often happens when the time allows and not necessarily when certain tasks or new information is obtained.
Here’s an example of how old data impacts multiple departments and stalls business growth: Let’s say a new shipment of product or supplies arrives in your warehouse. It’s up to that team to update an inventory spreadsheet for the sales team. But if those updates are delayed, your sales team could close deals with customers for inventory that’s not available in the warehouse. Those delays could cost your company a valuable customer.
Here’s another example: If the sales team is slow to update their spreadsheets with customer transactions, those delays make it difficult for your finance team to invoice the customer, collect payment, and close the transaction.
Businesses use spreadsheets for their simplicity and shareability among departments. But when it’s time to make decisions based on posted data, which report can you trust? They were all correct—once. But relying on guesswork to build customer loyalty and grow revenue is risky business.
3. Replace Primary Job Duties Data Entry
As a small business, building a workforce that wears different hats throughout the day is typical for encouraging business growth. But when the tools you use to measure growth detract from job growth opportunities and overall business growth, it’s time to reexamine your management tools.
For instance, one study found that around 72 percent of salespeople spend upwards of 60 minutes every day performing manual data entry. “This is at least an hour of the workday that could’ve been dedicated to completing higher-level tasks and solving the problems that require human creativity and attention,” says Valerie Kakovkina, a CRM expert.
As business leaders, you’ve dedicated valuable time to hire talented people to help your business move forward—not spend their time on data entry.
4. Hard to Measure Job Performance
As a project progresses, it’s hard to know which team member updated data, not to mention sort through which version includes the update. But the lack of transparency in who’s handling which data updates also hides an opportunity to measure individual job performance, workload, or mentoring moments.
Shifting focus to the work environment and enhancing the internal customer experience requires a new management style and modern project management tools. Studies show that 50 percent of emerging professionals say a workplace mentorship program improves their chances of staying at a company. But when all you see is data cells, it’s hard to know the job satisfaction behind the numbers.
What’s the Solution? A CRM System!
Companies need resources to measure project management, organize customer data, and track financial information. But are spreadsheets the ideal tool for the job?
At Stage Marketing, we believe a centralized CRM system is a better choice because it offers features that most spreadsheets don’t: automation, a centralized location for data, and scalability.
Automated features mean data is entered once and shared among departments. When a new shipment arrives, for example, an inventory report is automatically shared with the sales and finance teams, who can see how much product is available, which customer bought it, and at what price. Then the finance team can quickly follow up with an invoice.
Transparency and Centralized Data
When data is updated in real time in one location, other team members can see those updates and know that they can trust the data to do their jobs. Centralized data also exposes gaps in work processes that can easily be remedied, such as shifting workload, streamlining invoicing, or examining the usefulness of collected data among departments and making changes.
The good news is that you don’t have to abandon spreadsheets and the qualitative data you’ve collected because most CRM systems can integrate with spreadsheet software applications. And as your company grows, systems like HubSpot offer custom subscriptions that support sales and marketing campaigns, SEO, social media campaigns, and sales metrics to track the impact of your marketing budgets.
“Spreadsheets are great until they’re not,” says Megan Ross, an SEO analyst and CRM advisor at Stage Marketing. “They can keep you organized to a point, but then your whole life becomes updating spreadsheets and not doing your actual job. And even if you can automate spreadsheets, they weren’t designed for a lot of integration, so chances are you’ll be mending constantly.”
Spreadsheets work well when tracking simple data. But preparing your company for growth requires more from your team than just manually inputting data. If you are ready to take the next step toward integrating a system that simplifies essential work processes with automated features, accurately tracks financial data, and empowers your teams to magnify their job performance with a centralized platform, let’s talk! We can compare custom CRM solutions that align with your business goals.