Spreadsheets are a powerful digital tool that helps specialists, middle-level managers, and executives to automate complex business processes.
When used correctly, spreadsheets help businesses to track and analyze data, create reports, and even automate rudimentary everyday tasks. However, spreadsheets can also be error-prone and lead you astray with decision-making if they’re not used properly.
But what exactly is a business process? In short, it is a series of activities or tasks necessary to complete a specific goal. For example, the process of onboarding new employees might include tasks such as sending out offer letters, scheduling orientation sessions, and ordering business cards.
Managing business processes is essential because it helps ensure that tasks are completed promptly and efficiently. Managing operations effectively can lead to cost savings, improved customer satisfaction, and increased productivity.
Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, and Numbers are great tools for managing business processes. Their grid format makes it easy to track different steps in a process, and their built-in formulas can help any business automate repetitive tasks.
Here are seven actions you can do with spreadsheets to improve your business.
1. Create a Process Map
A process map is a visual representation of the steps involved in a process. Creating a process map can help you identify bottlenecks and areas where you might need improvements.
To create a process map in a program like Excel, start by listing the steps involved in the process sequentially in one column. Then, add columns for each task that needs to be completed at each stage of the process.
Finally, use color-coding or other visual indicators to show which tasks depend on others.
2. Track Progress With Charts and Graphs
After you’ve created a process map and started tracking data, you can use your custom spreadsheet to track the progress of your processes over time. For example, you can create a line chart that shows the number of items processed over time.
Creating charts and graphs in a spreadsheet is generally a straightforward process. Start by selecting the data you want to visualize. Then, choose the type of chart or graph you want to create.
The most commonly used charts and graphs are:
- Pie charts — for comparing proportions or percentages
- Bar charts — for comparing quantities or amounts
- Line graphs — for tracking changes over time
- Scatter plots — looking for relationships between two sets of data.
Once you’ve chosen the type of chart or graph you want to create, you can customize it to your liking. Customizing your charts and graphs will help you make them more informative and easier to understand.
3. Track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
KPIs are measures that help you assess how well a process is performing. By tracking KPIs, you can spot trends and identify areas for improvement.
To track KPIs in spreadsheets:
- Start by creating a separate sheet for each KPI
- Create a column for each data point you want to track
- Use formulas to calculate trends over time
One caveat with KPIs is that if your company manufactures different products, it might make sense to track KPIs using a manufacturing or enterprise resource planning software like Katana. It’s worth repeating that spreadsheets may be more prone to human error than all-in-one digital manufacturing systems.
4. Use Spreadsheets To Optimize Data Entry
If your business process involves collecting data from multiple sources, spreadsheets can help you streamline the data entry process.
To streamline data entry in a spreadsheet:
- Start by creating a separate sheet for each data source
- Create a column for each piece of information you need to collect
- Use data validation rules to ensure that only valid data is entered
Please note that data validation rules are essential to maintaining accurate data in a spreadsheet. By using data validation rules, you can ensure that only valid data is entered into a cell. For example, you can create a rule that requires a number to be entered into a cell or limits the number of characters that you can enter into a cell.
5. Test Formulas for Task Automation
A formula is an equation that calculates a result. If you want to use formulas for task automation at your company:
- Start by identifying the task that you want to automate
- Create a column for each input value
- Use a formula to calculate the desired output
For example, formula = A1+B1+C1 will add the contents of cells A1, B1, and C1. Formula =A1>B1 will compare the contents of cell A1 with the contents of cell B1 and return TRUE if the value in A1 is greater than the value in B1.
You can also use functions like SUM to calculate totals automatically. Another useful function is IF, which enables you to create rules that determine what action should be taken based on certain conditions.
Using formulas can save time and ensure that your calculations are always accurate.
6. Automate Notifications
You can use Excel to automate the notification process if you need to be notified when certain conditions are met.
To automate notifications:
- Start by creating a column for each condition you want to track
- Use formulas to check if the conditions are met
- Use the IF function to send an automatic email or text message when the conditions are met
7. Make Use of Templates
You can use many free online templates for business process management. Templates can save you time by providing a starting point for your process management system.
Excel and Sheets also have several built-in templates that can help you streamline your process management. For example, there’s a template for tracking project milestones and another for creating a task management board.
To find the templates in Excel:
- Click on the File tab
- Click on New and select the template you want to use
- Follow the instructions to customize the template for your needs
There you have it, seven ideas on how you can use spreadsheets on your own for your business. Start computing and witness your business blossom.