Many Pies

Many Pies

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Are spreadsheets really all that bad for storing data?

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

There, I said it. You were thinking it though weren't you?

If you're responsible for a CRM then spreadsheets are the bane of your life. People download them and then leave them lying around for years. People use them for storing information that should really live in the CRM but for various reasons they set up their own spreadsheet.

Some of those reasons are understandable. Spreadsheets are really good for laying small amounts of data out and easy to update. If the information was in the CRM it might be a bit more work to find and maintain. The downside is (I feel I hardly need to tell you) that it's not easily accessible to other CRM users, it goes out of date and just feels wrong.

I'd like to propose the controversial opinion that there may be some circumstances where that data is OK living in a spreadsheet. At this point I expect you're sharpening your pitchfork ready to come and drive me out of the CRM village, but hear me out. I think there are a limited number of cases where it's OK. Here they are:

The number of records is limited. You may have X thousand or million records on your CRM but for a small group of records there is a lot of extra information you want to store. Rather than add a number of fields for all those records, it may be OK to store them in a spreadsheet.

The data isn't complex. It fits on a single sheet. There are no complicated relationships. There may be lookups, but they have simple lists behind them.

Everyone knows where it is. Well not everyone, but everyone who needs to know. So access does have to be limited to those people.

The procedures are clear. Although the data is stored in an informal way, it still needs to have good procedure around it so that people know how to update it.

Have I convinced you? Are there other rules you'd want to add to my list?