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Planview Customer Success Center

BEWARE: Smart People with Dumb Tools

You have intelligent people in your organization. You hire the best engineers, architects, IT managers, and executives. Why insult their intelligence by providing them with tools built for the 90’s? There was a time not that long ago when fluency with Excel was a measurement of your business acumen, but today seven year olds are creating spreadsheets for daily chore charts and tracking soccer scores. Is this still an appropriate way to keep tabs on, understand, and run your business in today’s digital world?

dumb_tools_092914_3.jpegLeaders have been making important strategic decisions since the dawn of time, but the approach to making a sound choice must evolve with the drastically changing landscape. Technology allows our organizations to be connected in more ways than ever thought possible, which has driven new and increased efficiencies in countless areas of the business. Yet, making quick, well-informed decisions has become more difficult than ever before. The decision-making process is broken.

In a much simpler world without mobile devices, cloud computing, or software-defined data centers, managing, tracking, and understanding people, processes, and technology assets in order to define strategy might have been adequately accomplished using Excel, Visio, or Powerpoint (EVP). Today, staying on top of the devices, software, applications, and technology used by just one person is hardly doable via a manually updated spreadsheet. It amazes me that there are still business and technology leaders who are comfortable with using that approach to manage an entire organization.  

Mismanaging and misunderstanding critical data can lead to any number of business pitfalls, some that you can’t come back from, yet large organizations continue to rely on a method that has proven time and time again to be dangerously error-prone.

“The perception of the ease-of-use of spreadsheets is to some extent an illusion. It is dead easy to get an answer from a spreadsheet, however, it is not necessarily easy to get the right answer. Thus the distorted view. The difficulty of using alternatives to spreadsheets is overestimated by many people. The hard way looks easy, the easy way looks hard.” – Patrick BurnsBurns Statistics Blog

Even if you somehow located the elusive state of spreadsheet perfection and you had all your dates, numbers and interdependency ducks in a row (or a column), would you then feel fully empowered to make important decisions for the business? Wouldn’t you feel better if you could also take into account the knowledge, data, and information living inside the heads, departments, and databases of all the other parts of the business? Specifically, how the pieces of information listed in your spreadsheet or power point deck tie to your goals and strategies, your processes, your capabilities, your policies and your organizations? It’s possible, and not as difficult as you may think.

As recently quoted in an article in the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal, “When the business cases and subsequent analysis that various groups bring to IT planning discussions are complex and interdependent—as they often are—decision-makers can approach their analysis with more clarity and confidence when they are able to visualize scenarios.”

Our worlds are complex because of the impressive rate of innovation and technological advancement we have and will continue to experience. It is an exciting time to be part of the uber-connected world with organizations that are digitally linked across time zones, departments, projects and individuals. The good news is that options for managing that complex environment have also improved due to innovation and advancement. Put down the spreadsheet. It is time to start using tools that are as smart as the people you hired to use them.