Even game-changing companies and technology trailblazers have the backstage they’d rather not expose to the public sphere. No matter how advanced the company is in terms of technologies and internal processes, its operations most probably use smart sheets for all types of everyday activities. After countless process improvements, audits, and tons of digital tools onboard, they still use good old Google Sheets, MS Excel, and analogs.
Fair enough, smart sheets have their benefits:
Convenient, transparent, universal
Great for analytics (filter, sort, charts, formulas. aggregations)
No need to be a data science guru
Bulk operations out of the box
Easy data import and export
Emulation of questionnaires, checklists, etc.
As the data grows and the process changes, one by one, the limitations start to appear:
No workflow. Any data can be edited at any time. Hard to figure out what is pending
Possible data loss and damage when shared access
Quasi-manual control of data integrity
Slow with big data (except for Excel, but it’s not an online shared tool)
Too complex macros and built-in functions require documentation and training
As a result, the department ends up with siloed knowledge, and the smartsheet is so complex and messed up that it’s harder and harder to use and maintain. There is usually a person responsible for a given smartsheet, and the only one who knows how to work with it. It takes 15 minutes to load and 15 minutes to scroll to the needed place.
Been there, seen that?
Tables are perfect, natural, and clear data representations. Let’s admit it and let’s live with it. The issue here is that it does not apply to all use cases. For instance, taking data regarding one entity from a smartsheet is a 3-mile horizontal scrolling. Sorting and searching for big data is time-consuming. It’s hellish to split or reorganize the data.
There’s no way back, at some point, a powerful data warehouse will take over. At the same time, operations still need a cozy place to store and quickly manipulate the essential up-to-date data, to scratch or analyze on the run. That’s why they may be reluctant to use new tools. Here are some leadership tips to keep the operations happy and efficient while developing powerful and reliable data storage that correlates with the business workflows.
Reconcile. Stop trying to get rid of smart sheets. At most, your ops will end up with underground smartsheets and formal adoption of new tools. Instead, study their usage and give them smart tools where they meet the smartsheet's limitations. This means, giving them additional tools for project management, CRM, or whatever.
Integrate. Adopt new equipment in a way compatible with the as-is process. As a start, some simple CSV import and export is more than enough, but it’s crucial to have it.
Iterate. Give people time to get along with new processes and tooling. Notice any flash on incompatibilities and bottlenecks. Sick for solutions, discuss, and go to the next iteration.
Remember: Rome was not built in a day. One-hit process upgrade is a utopia. That’s a different story though.