Saturday, 2 May 2015

Pocket Calculator

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"Never trust anyone working on a spreadsheet, with a pocket calculator in one hand, adding up figures, to pop in a worksheet cell". 

An excellent observation that was shared with me last week. How many staff in your organisation operate like that?

In the same week, a team told me how well they managed voids on a spreadsheet, with a row per void, and what seemed like dozens of date columns. Each column was an action or a prompt of course. IE Keys handed in, passed to repairs team, started, complete in repairs, blah, blah. Each had targets (e.g. 5 days for minor void repair turnarounds etc), but there were no formulas in the spreadsheet, no intelligent highlighting, clever formulas in hidden columns doing the leg work etc.

That team also described that spreadsheet as a 'database'.

Funniest thing was that a workflow process was set up to manage this whole thing and that was "Too time consuming, to use". Apparently spreadsheets & even a board of T-Cards were quicker. Well, they could have been if that Excel spreadsheet had all kinds of fancy formulas that could quickly provide totals of voids, ones in time, out or approaching time etc. Reporting of course was a manual affair, requiring running a finger down a column, tapping numbers into a calculator etc. So as you can imagine, the spreadsheet is actually far less efficient than the workflow that should be in use.

While this is an interesting anecdote, it does make you wonder how many people are using Excel spreadsheets, without the slightest idea how they should be used. Much like an Armalite rifle should not be issued to a combat soldier unless they can strip it down and rebuild it, maybe we should not be giving users Excel if they don't actually know the first thing about it. Better to give them Word and just point them at the 'Insert > Table' tab on the ribbon. It would be about as efficient.

Many readers might remember that old initiative of the computer users driving license. Maybe we should have an Excel driving license, users need to complete, like a road theory test, before they can use the rows and columns. Who would be up for that?

When we recruit new staff, including managers and directors, should we not test their IT literacy too? I come across so many people like in this story, who carry their managers in trying to help them handle and do even elementary manipulation of Excel and other standard office tools. 

This might well get users using what we want them to use, so we have regain control over our processes and KPIs. Oh and lets ban pocket calculators if their owners have an Excel shortcut on their desktop, while we are at it. as they said for the "Good Friday Agreement", lets "Put them beyond use". We can move on efficiently then. Amen.

Related Post: So, can you staff even tackle a VLOOKUP then?


You can link with me on LinkedIn here - It would be great to connect !

Kraftwerk - Pocket Calculator (Live)Kraftwerk - Pocket Calculator.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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