By Tim Anderson: Head of Sales and Marketing; Technosys Ltd.
A funny thing happened to me the other morning as I made the early commute into London. A smart looking business man, probably in his late 20’s or early 30’s was tapping out an email on his mobile and, due to the magic of the internet and advanced use of WiFi ,he duly sent his email to its intended recipient. Nothing too strange there however what happened next made me think.
The young executive proceeded to then call the person he had sent the email to so he could point out that he had sent the email and that he desperately needed to discuss the content with them later that day.
I pondered the event and wondered how often I had done a similar thing and why I may have felt the need to do so? I wondered too why the young executive had felt the need to do so and concluded that whilst we take email for granted, there are times when we need a belt and braces approach to our communication needs and perhaps do not want to leave to chance what could be an incredibly important activity.
My thoughts then progressed onto how we might use email in a wider context and thought about the many times that I now send things to generic addresses such as info@ or sales@ and concluded that whilst I felt the communication probably got to its destination, how could I be sure that the mailbox was manned or would get through to someone that cared?
But the generic email address was not our young executives challenge, he had sent an email to a specific contact, his challenge I assume was emphasising the importance of the content matter and did not want to leave to chance a high importance tag on his email (!). So I concluded that the actions were not so strange after all and that leaving the reading of the email by the intended recipient to chance may warrant such additional actions by the sender. After all, we have all been on time management workshops where we are advised to deal with email at specific times of the day and not let this communication method become a drain or driver of our daily output.
At this point I then began to wonder how often do similar things happen within our businesses, where we are now heavily reliant on email as a main line of communication including areas such as internal and external customer requests.
Take a simple request like an HR request, sending a request for information on a specific topic to a general company HR@ address is common practice but how does the requester know if their request is being dealt with? Are there information needs in line with your own internal response times?
Taking this example further, let’s say the request to HR was for information was about a payroll issue, how can we be sure that the generic HR address directs the information request to the correct person within HR? Once the query has been routed to the correct HR expert, is there sufficient information within the email content for the HR expert to successfully deal with the requester query or will the HR expert need to email back and request more specific details?
Perhaps a telephone call might short circuit the process? Providing the HR expert has access to a suitable number, this might be a great way to circumnavigate the process however now we have a new challenge, how can we record the transaction taking place, particularly if this inquiry needs to demonstrate an element of compliance or meet a service level agreement?
The transaction might continue with return emails, re-scheduled calls and perhaps even tracking the request as an incident or case item within some form of CRM system (more often than not in good old excel ).
We end up with a whole lot of additional interactions, time delays and misguidance that the simple request ends up costing the business a heap of money. It might look like this:
In short, email and excel are no way to run an effective business.
Consider for a moment how you use email and spreadsheets within your own organisation, where are the most likely request or inquiry points, be they from internal or external customers?
How are the requests tracked and managed from a quality perspective? How do the responses match up to the requester expectations regarding response times and data accuracy? How useful was the response in supporting the requester?
A number of you may be fortunate to have enterprise wide technology that can support these challenges but from my experience I know many of you do not and rely heavily on Excel spreadsheets to help answer some of these questions.
Excel is a great piece of software. It serves its purposes for reporting, charting, running basic analytics among other things, however, it is not built to serve as a system of record or a central repository to manage complex businesses that have multiple people doing multiple tasks.
I have seen clients do amazing things with Excel and build workarounds for things that Excel was not designed for but let’s be clear, they are called workarounds for a reason. Excel is not built to manage your entire business. You will eventually run into big problems. I have witnessed first-hand Excel spreadsheets with complicated macros, validations, and security that take a full time person just to support, update, and maintain. And then heaven forbid, they leave your organisation and no one knows how to look after the table.
There are four good reasons why you should stop using Excel as your enterprise system of record:
- Lack of version control.
- Collaboration using a single spreadsheet is not feasible.
- The standardization of data input is hard to control and as such brings into question the quality of input.
- Data sourced from multiple places and as such not provided from a single source of record or truth.
To learn how smart businesses are taking advantage of self-service, enterprise applications that are built on a single source of record to improve business efficiency read two of our white papers at:
Retail and Hospitality http://www.technosysuk.com/gaining-a-competitive-advantage-in-hospitality-and-retail-2/
Housing Associations http://www.technosysuk.com/service-focused-it-for-housing-associations/