There are better ways to use 50% of the time

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Alica Kačengová

As spreadsheets are easy to start with and learn, there is a huge number of businesses that use them for keeping records and data analysis. The results are further used for predictions and decision making – definitely very important, sometimes even mission critical tasks.

On these terms, it is quite scary that more than 90% of spreadsheets contain errors. As might be expected, nobody wants to make predictions and decisions based on wrong data, and the only way to minimize errors is to introduce policies and guidelines on how to create and manage spreadsheets. Unfortunately, you can’t get that for nothing. And what’s the price? Your own time. Your most precious resource.

According to a study conducted as a part of the Spreadsheet Engineering Research Project, a majority of users spends up to 50% of their time working with spreadsheets. Unless the person’s job belongs to the field of data analysis, that number is really high. We think that the main cause is a typical spreadsheet lifecycle which has seven interconnected stages, each of them requiring non-trivial effort:

The first step requires you to at least briefly design your spreadsheet even before you actually create it, so you can avoid changing it later. However, we all know that a spreadsheet report is not etched in stone, it rather resembles a living organism. There will always be something to change or add and the software you use has to encourage it, instead of forcing you to know almost everything in advance.

Another time-consuming step is documentation. Mostly, the data is not self-explanatory and you or someone else will have to use them again in future. But the spreadsheet itself knows nothing about the meaning of the data. If there is no documentation, there is no understanding. What if the software you use would know something more about your data than just letters and figures, so you don’t have to write extensive documentation?

What about the team work? We don’t consider emailing file attachments and maintaining multiple historical copies an option. In today’s world, collaboration is a must and if your software supports it in real time, it saves your time.

We believe that software must adapt to your processes, not vice-versa, and that’s the way we build Lumeer. Because there are so many better ways to spend 50% of your time than fighting with your software.