Make it work like excel does

“Make it work like excel”.

I’ve heard this quite a bit from non-technical managers and (and even some technical ones). You can point to many features of excel that businesses use day after day to do large tasks. Excel powers businesses because you don’t have to be technical to master it, and it has 20+ years of documentation and “How do I?” covered.

From the software perspective, make it work like excel, is akin to asking your everyday development team to learn how to scale Mt. Everest — that’s the scale of the difference in saying it vs doing it.

I use excel as an example because you’re probably familiar with it; but the same example could be used for any commercially produced movie, TV Show, or piece of software.

The part hidden to us is that millions of dollars and years went into making the first version of excel — and they’ve had over 20 years to improve excel.

In instances where business people wanted me to ‘make it work like excel’, I’ve had more success stepping back and figuring out the business behind the spreadsheet.

Why is excel being used? Is it for data entry? Manipulation? Complex formulas? replacing rote text? Why is it there? Figuring that out then shifts the conversation from replacing a spreadsheet based workflow with a crappier spreadsheet-looking workflow to implementing a workflow that captures the essence behind why the spreadsheet was necessary in the first place — and that doesn’t take millions of dollars and 20 years.

I’m interested to hear from you on this: What do you use excel for in your business? What manual processes does it replace? Are you happy with it?

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