Thursday, 5 November 2015

Labour Of Love

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Sometimes I come across some real labours of love, encapsulated in Excel. I am sure we have all come across them, multiple worksheets, using lots of formulas, function seven deep, no end of HLOOKUPs and pivot tables.

It's amazing how some of these start off as simple ways to solve quite small problems. That's how they gain acceptance and grow into some real animals. One I encountered was from an organisation managing personal care budgets. It worked fine while they were managing a few dozen of them. Being successful, they soon were awarded a few hundred more to manage and within eight months had an expanding spreadsheet with already 25,000 rows of transactions on it.

Another example I come across often, is tracking of voids. How void teams seem to love spreadsheets and the way columns can be formatted as dates. This ignores the fact that most integrated housing management systems out there can knock out a fairly functional void action plan. Spreadsheets can look sexier though and that's often the attraction.  One I was looking at with a void team recently (I won't say where) had an Excel guru who built theirs and it looked great. However to report they had to count voids manually, there were no SUM() functions in it, or conditional highlighting to graduate a cell red when it was overdue.

When it was suggested they could build the void action plan with dates in the HMS and it was explained that would be easily reportable, the conclusion floored me. The void manager said, "Oh yes, that would be just like a database!".  "Well yes dear, that's the point of an integrated HMS", I was thinking while I bit my tongue. I calmly suggested I put it on the list of areas we will note that need addressing.

...and don't get me on the number of excel hosted Gas servicing and asbestos spreadsheets I have seen, during my 19+ years in social housing. 

There is a serious skills gap around understanding Excel and also what is possible from applications users already have. The former is a problem caused by organisations, who rarely provide enough training to assist them in getting the most from a brilliant tool. Lack of knowledge of system applications that are there, to manage our business processes, sometimes comes down to lack of training, but also some chronic under-implementation.  Suppliers are as much to blame here as project teams and ICT staff. When suppliers make it so difficult to understand and configure integrated systems, it plays into the hands of the Excel lovers.

I leave you with this poem I stumbled across this week, from Brian Bilston. You will enjoy it if you know your Excel. If there are any subtleties you are missing, get yourself on an Excel course.

Feel free to get in touch if you can knock together an 'Ode to Ohms', 'A Couplet for Comino' or a 'Promaster Pentameter'. Get your stanza's out 8-)    

     Catch the blog monthly archive at https://archive.org/details/@housingitguy

Related Post: When it comes to workflow, are your users more used to their tea-tray than their HMS Task-Tray?

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I would be pleased to connect with you on LinkedIn - http://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy Message me with any issues or queries, you would like to be explored in this blog. We generally receive a couple of suggestions each month.


Hue and Cry - Labour Of LoveHue and Cry - Labour Of Love.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009


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