For long we have remained dependent on three tools to keep the work moving at the office. Emails, spreadsheets, and meetings are the three buzz words we just cannot live without. They always make to the core of our productivity and collaboration models even today. While we remain highly reliant on these traditional tools to streamline our assignments on a day-to-day basis, the recent health crisis seems to have revealed some chinks in the armor yet again.
The COVID-19 health crisis has not only forced us to sit in individual isolated corners of our homes and deliver work from there. But the situation has compelled the team leaders to reinvent the traditional methodologies of achieving work efficiency in a more meaningful manner as the emails, spreadsheets, and physical meetings have proved to be extremely inefficient and at times impossible to be useful in the current setup of remote work.
Limitations of the traditional tools are not unknown as we keep moving in the direction of increased collaboration and communication continuously. There is much better awareness nowadays about specialized online work and project management tools such as Wrike, Zoho Projects, or WorkMarshal. However, when the entire organization is working from home without any real possibility of getting back to the normal workplace routine anytime soon, it’s an entirely new scenario many companies are still learning to cope with.
We all love spreadsheets as it is easy to get started and everyone has seen it in action from our school days. It remains favorite at the individual level for its capacity to make complex calculations with minimum knowledge of programming. In terms of functionality, it can get complicated and involve some steep learning curve in getting mastery at some utilities such as Macros and Pivot tables.
Whether it is Excel, Google spreadsheets, or Zoho spreadsheets, they remain a tool to reckon with for the beginner’s stages of getting things moving and give some shape to data representation. But as the needs of any growing team evolve, so should the equipment we use. And this is where continuing with spreadsheets can create some serious bottlenecks in the path of business productivity.
Today’s highly collaborative business models need dynamic tools to remain on the same page, and spreadsheets just cannot cope with it. For teams to be effective, they need something where data can be easily visualized, monitored, and shared.
Below are three basic reasons why spreadsheets can turn out to be a great productivity killer for your teams.
Monitoring & Visualizing Hidden Data
Analyzing data in spreadsheets is a challenging job as you are dealing with lots of raw data that’s difficult to interpret. It’s easy to lose track of a big picture and overall purpose as you are endlessly spending time simply streamlining the data. Despite all the effort, many important factors remain hidden from the team, ultimately resulting in poor decision making.
Difficulty in Real-time Collaboration
Businesses in recent times have evolved needing faster routes of data transmission for swift execution of projects and work assignments. Online collaboration and productivity tools make it possible to communicate in real-time on specific tasks. But it’s impossible in spreadsheets to collaborate as a single unit at the very location of execution. This eventually leads to an unnecessary communication gap between stakeholders about the exact state of projects and assignments.
As the data points keep on increasing in your spreadsheets, more effort is needed to keep it meaningful. The overall health of progress becomes harder to visualize and envisage. And there is little you can do about it. There are separate tools such as Tableau that can aid you in converting your raw data into accessible reports and graphs. But it leads to additional cost and automation is too tedious. Instead, specialized software can not only scale with your data but can also give you great insides through automated dashboards and high-level reports with minimal efforts.
Emails are a great tool for professional messaging. It remains a mandatory tool and everyone has access to it. But using emails for managing projects can be dangerous and cost you money.
When you have back and forth communication going on for long-duration with several email threads that you can’t make head and tail off and add to that ton of attachments, it’s a recipe for productivity disaster.
Emails are a perfect source for overloaded information, most of which are distractive in nature. Many of the emails marked to us may not be even directly relevant to us. A tremendous amount of precious time is lost in deciphering the meaning of this disordered pile of communication daily.
This important time could easily be spent more accurately and productively if you can have a dedicated space for project and task management and use emails for the minimal purpose it was originally built for.
According to the survey, organizations in the US spent about 15% of their time in meetings and executives consider 67% of meetings to be a failure. While physical team meetings are impossible to have as we are locked down due to a health crisis.
But there is a tremendous rise in online meetings and many executives have complained about having to attain more meetings than they use to while in office. Working from home has now turned to ‘always available’ in terms of expectations from staff. There is a way around to make online meetings more productive.
However, it is time to accept that incessant meetings are just another source of adding more confusion to the overall project progress.
Meetings are a great source of team building and we badly need some positive vibes during these difficult times. Apart from that having regular scrum and agile meetings to reveal updates about the latest progress on the projects is great too. But we need to be mindful of when a meeting starts to become a ground for unproductive debates that take the team and the project nowhere.
Email, spreadsheets, and endless meetings will continue to be the intrinsic part of our routine. They can be great aids in keeping things together and moving. However, these tools are not reliable when the scope of work assignments whether a long term project or workflow process grows beyond a certain limit.
Productivity is an animal hard to tame. It’s wise to have specialized tools such as WorkMarshal in place that can help you provide real-time context for all your communications and work assignments.
Making a habit of using dedicated workspace for your team during the entire cycle of a project can help you optimize resources, minimize budgets, and mitigate risks in the long term. The practice will give you much-desired control over your assignments and not allow the projects to spill out of control.