|By Ian Khan||
|February 26, 2016 04:00 PM EST||
Ask anyone who is working with data "What is your biggest challenge?" The answer most of the time is "the inability to use our data fully." This and similar statements signify one common thread of pain. With data growing at 44% over the next 10 years, it goes without saying that your business is going to be inundated with data from all sides. With "making a profit" on the minds of over 35% of SMB survey respondents, it goes without saying that the challenge is multi-fold with being able to sustain the business and ensure profitability being prime.
How Is SMB Analyzing Data
One of the most common ways of managing information and data in general has traditionally been through the use of spreadsheets. Spreadsheets applications such as Microsoft Excel and others have changed the way we manage information and work with information on an everyday basis. Information workers really benefited from spreadsheets and from that we should really credit the companies that invented them.
In today's data-intensive applications and now that data is being generated to the tune of zettabytes, some challenges have arisen.
Spreadsheets Are Great But!
There are over 750 million Excel users worldwide. These users are comprised of power users, casual users, and users who manage every aspect of their business performance in Excel. The usage of spreadsheets has become more rampant not only in the financial side of things but also in every other aspect of business to the extent that users and organizations today are glued to spreadsheets like never before. Business operations are fed by an intricate maze of connected spreadsheets that define price lists, financial models, revenue projections, production data, weather data, patterns, forecasts and more. Spreadsheets have also led to the phenomenon of ‘spreadsheet addiction" where spreadsheets are being used for every aspect of business, in essence jeopardizing the essence of business. One example that I can point out is actually that of a large bank that inaccurately used Excel to generate a financial projection that potentially jeopardized the entire organization. Here take a peek at the Report of "JPMorgan Chase & Co. Management Task Force Regarding 2012 CIO Losses" that will give you a completely different perspective on how Excel was used in the most inappropriate financial manner. Let's for once agree now that while Excel sheets have tremendous features and functionality, they are not a Swiss army knife of data and information.
The Problem with Business Intelligence and Analytics
BI and analytics form a key strategic part of a business that is key to the overall success of the organization. To do justice to Excel, I must mention that Excel was never designed to be a business intelligence and analytics platform. Imagine using your Chevy to plow the fields. Yes it can be done with due medications and a large amount of welding, breaking and re-welding, but it's not meant to be. It's not what it was designed to do. It's the same case with Excel. It is not a BI tool and was never designed to be one, so Mr. IT Manager who knows it all, just stop.
Why Do Folks Use Excel
Excel is conveniently available as part of your Microsoft Office. Other companies use Excel in this format; Excel is easy to use; Excel has Pivot Charts; Excel has graphs and charts; I can design a macro in Excel. And so on. These are some of the answers we got when we asked a random set of Excel BI users why they were using Excel for analytics. Not one of them responded that they were using Excel because it was one of the best BI tools they had ever seen. I hope you get the picture. I don't blame any of this on Excel or spreadsheets but the whole blame is on vendors that have failed to inform their customers of the true value they can unlock with a true analytics platform or solution. A system based on sharing files is also prone to the problem of data insecurity. Spreadsheets are stored on network shares, private computers, on non-secure online applications and as things go, face the problem of not being able to maintain versions and security in the most efficient way. Adding to that is the problem of the inability of easily integrating with the multiple data sources that hold your data. This now being cloud databases plus many more. I hope you are seeing the larger picture.
Do You Really Want Data to Drive Intelligence for Your Business
You have to start thinking differently. With business intelligence or analytics, you have to go through a new route to get to the destination you really want to go to. The traditional ways of IT that worked 20 years ago have been transformed and the battle today is more about helping people lose their bad habits than helping them adapt and build new habits. Building habits, although time- consuming, may have an effect on your bottom line. If you are one of the businesses that are looking for sustenance and profitability, let alone growth, you may need to emphasize this more than anything else. BI challenges are faced by companies of all sizes and every type of business. Data analysis users within these organizations are still battling the demons of spreadsheets just like anyone else. Start thinking of your needs perspective and look at best practices that will help you achieve more in less time with fewer resources. In many cases you can use the investment in manual time-consuming tasks to scale building applications and growth that will help your business grow.
I am also running a webinar about the challenges of Spreadsheets and Analytics on Feb 24. Join me to learn more and how you can shift your organizations focus to that of a profitable entity. More than anything I want you to keep your Chevy and utilize it for your personal use rather than use it to plow the fields. There are other specialized vehicles that can do that.
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