Are you still using spreadsheets to schedule and plan work?

August 31, 2022 | Digital Transformation, Productivity

using spreadsheets to schedule work

While spreadsheets have some perks including the fact they are often free, there is only so much they can do – even Excel, the best known spreadsheet software, which I heard someone recently refer to as a Swiss army knife within the Microsoft Office product suite. Today, used by too many  businesses to schedule their employees’ work.

Excel has many functions but they come with an equivalent number of limitations. Excel was never designed as a solution for scheduling and forecasting work but as a financial tool rather than a planning, forecasting, or work allocation tool. However, if the only tool you have is a hammer all the problems start to look like nails. Many small companies start using it, since it’s usually included in a common company software package and does not require any additional cost or training. At first glance, it’s cheap and functional, however, Excel can quickly stop coping with the pace of the growing business (can you imagine trying to define or track customer journeys with a spreadsheet?).

Since spreadsheets are not very enjoyable to use, are hard to keep up to date, and not easy to share when changing, what you need is something that is more dynamic, functionally rich, easy to use, adding real value to the day-to-day, and enabling future resource planning  (not to mention being more visually pleasing). If I have not yet convinced you to ditch excel and find a dedicated software for work allocation, scheduling and forecasting work, keep reading – I have prepared a convincing list of reasons below.

Reasons why you should stop using Excel to schedule work

  1. Maintaining spreadsheets is a time-consuming process.

Using scheduling software saves both managers and employees a great deal of time by simplifying the sharing of information. With a spreadsheet, you either have to make it available via Google docs or a shared folder on your network, or to separately contact each employee with scheduling information every time there is a change. Then, building an employee schedule in Excel can be time-consuming, especially if shifts are constantly changing. Half of employers spend at least two hours editing spreadsheets and sending out newly revised schedules to their workers every week. This defeats the purpose of using Excel in the first place, which is to save time and keep things simple.

  1. You have only one Excel guru

The guru would like to take a day off. But often they cannot. Even worse if you are that one excel guru. The person who creates the spreadsheet (or better yet, a fancy macro) is the only one who knows how to update it properly. If that person leaves the company, the company risks coming to a screeching halt, since no one else knows how to manage the spreadsheet properly.

  1. Spreadsheets lack reporting data

Spreadsheet does not send notifications and alerts if someone implements changes or forgets to fill out their timesheet. You spend a lot of time maintaining the schedule, but you are not benefitting from it. The situation complicates even further if you have a complex set of spreadsheets, each referring to the others, or end up having to merge their content to get your operational data.

  1. Communicating the information in the spreadsheets to your employees is not easy either.

If you’re using Microsoft Excel, all employees can see each other’s shifts and work allocated. Additionally, you do not receive automatic confirmations from employees regarding their schedule. Once the spreadsheet is sent out, you do not have a guarantee that the members of your staff even saw it, let alone confirmed it. Yes, you can share them on OneDrive or SharePoint but that is an additional burden for you, and your employees.

  1. A spreadsheet is not a database system

A spreadsheet is unstructured and creates risk to data. If it is not a database system, there is only limited reporting. You need to enter all details manually, and then keep them up-to-date potentially in several spreadsheets, which can be a logistical nightmare.

  1. No multiple-user option

The data used in spreadsheets needs to be consolidated from multiple sources, and multiple people cannot work on the spreadsheets in the same time, unless you use a shared online spreadsheet which often supports fewer rich functions. This can result in bottlenecks that limit scalability, duplication of data entry, and greatly increase the risk of errors.

  1. Human Errors

Employee schedules need to be built manually, what means they are prone to human mistakes. Excel formulas can only verify some logic of the equation or the rule. If one number is misplaced, the whole system can fall apart, and finding those mistakes can take a while. This is a big issue with scheduling using spreadsheets. Do you really want to become a developer when you could get all the tracking, metrics and MIS you could ever want out the box?

  1. Lack of Real-time updates

Spreadsheets have to be manually updated and as such are not pro-active but reactive . They cannot track the performance of work scheduled in them. Using spreadsheets instead of a dedicated system means you will have to wait for answers, rather than being informed about any incidents in real-time.

  1. Spreadsheets do not integrate well with other software

Your company’s spreadsheet may have all the necessary data but moving that data into ERP software is a time consuming and monotonous process. Since the spreadsheet doesn’t update the information in your ERP or other internal system, this must be done manually, and the chance for making mistake notably increase.

  1. Spreadsheets do not scale

A spreadsheet is a good solution for a small business with a few employees, but it is not functional for growing enterprises. Finding a particular data point in a spreadsheet for a medium to large business can be a backbreaking challenge.

Now, let’s reconsider all the benefits of  dedicated software for forecasting and scheduling. It will definitely cost more to implement a purpose-built scheduling solution than purchasing Microsoft Excel. The real question should be how much a dedicated solution can save your business. As it is certain that the long-term costs and benefits of dedicated software will outweigh these achieved with spreadsheets.

If we look at solutions like OPX from CMS it provides a wide range of benefits such as

  • Real time work allocation based on skills & Business Priorities
  • Forward forecasting at a granular level on Services and Product service requirements
  • Planning when new hires are needed
  • Planning when additional skills training needs to be handled
  • Taking into account new hires or new trainees learning curve to competency
  • Advanced configurable forecasts handling seasonal variations in demand and supply
  • Ability to handle what-if scenarios
  • Planning visibility and reporting for the plan stakeholders
  • Planning where there are discrete regulatory of business timing for each step in a process

All of these allow the business to find and exploit hidden talent and latency capacity resulting in increases of 30%+ utilization and productivity.

The above disadvantages and benefits make it much easier to understand why so many businesses are finding that scheduling software is a safer and more efficient way to manage their daily activities. With its complex but easy-to-use features, scheduling software can offer much more than Excel and other spreadsheets.

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