I doubt the actor Clint Eastwood uses Excel, but I am sure he will agree with my no-Excel policy. He once said, “I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.”
One of the biggest mistakes we all make when building a report is choosing what action should drive it. In many reports, I notice a repeated pattern: Someone builds a report to answer a question, but it’s not focused on actions. That’s why stakeholders often find themselves using Excel to drive actions.
Here are five keys to successfully instituting a no-Excel policy at your company:
- Action-focused reporting: Understand what actions your end users need to take. Focus on supplying them with the specific answers they seek, not just a general direction. Apply as many dimensions as needed to help them focus on actions.
- State-of-the-art reporting system: Adopt a reliable reporting system, one that will help you find out what you need to know rather than blocking you from doing so. Test two or three different systems before making a decision.
- Designing the dashboard together: This may sound trivial, but it’s not. I see this mistake repeatedly: An analyst builds a data set or report without collaborating much with the stakeholders.
- Rebuilding your reports: Never stop changing the reports. Make them dynamic enough that you can respond quickly to changes in focus among your stakeholders. Don’t keep them waiting a long time to get the answers they need.
- Having an ad hoc analyst on duty: Don’t forget that other employees are relying on you. Don’t stop communicating about the status of progress on the project, but make sure you have an analyst available for ad hoc tasks, so employees don’t feel the need to use Excel to accomplish them.
Takeaway : Collaborate and communicate, but above all, make sure your stakeholders are part of your process.