There comes a time in every workweek when a certain employee in our company needs to create multiple spreadsheet reports. This is a story of personal and professional development, or to put in simple words, how one woman made spreadsheets work for her and not the other way around.
Automate data entry
First steps are the hardest. It’s not only that you need to enter the data correctly but you need to envision the spreadsheet and its structure as a story consisting of static data. To the person who will eventually read the report the story needs to be clear and to have a point, or the whole spreadsheet will lose its purpose.
To overcome the dull data entry part of the task our colleague uses exporting and importing data to spreadsheets any time it’s possible. It saves her precious time, and helps her to build a foundation of the report. In later stages she can adapt the layout, adding or moving rows or columns, which is much easier and less time consuming than filling the endless number of cells with data.
But, most importantly, the data that’s been imported to the spreadsheet from some sort of system is always up to date, so she knows that her report is based on fresh figures and that calculations will be accurate and will present the true state of her projects.
Do the visualization
Although the information is all there, sometimes you just can’t get to the point without seeing it in the right way. This is where pivot tables and charts come in.
A little attention paid to designing data visualizations helps a lot when our employee wants to develop meaningful insights from a load of hard-to-handle data.
Format like a boss
Conditional formatting is a good way to point out the priorities of your spreadsheet. Use colors for visual highlights of the report and if you feel that they will enhance the report’s readability. Our colleague knows that in business, colors are not for decorative purposes so she’s careful what cell is she painting red – she doesn’t want to send out the wrong message. She uses light orange or blue shades if she wants us to take notice of a cell in question.
Feedback and Collaboration
You send the spreadsheet to your manager for feedback. Manager makes his notes and corrections. You download the corrected version. You miss to correct something of relevance, that’s related to a corrected cell because it’s not visible enough. You send the report back for final validation. Something is corrected again, and only god knows what. The report gets to the final recipient. He looks at mashed up data while considering how much unpleasantness can fit into one email. You are banging your head against the keyboard and destroying company property and your manager is pulling his hair out. Familiar scenario?
In our team, we use Google Sheets, so when we work together – we work together all the way. When our colleague starts building a spreadsheet, she shares it with the people of interest. She assigns them with appropriate privileges so they can edit the sheet and comment on it if they wish. Every change is recorded and she always knows who changed what and why.
In fact, we practice this type of collaboration in creating every document of importance.
This way, everyone gets to participate, idea flow is faster and the final product is just what we intended it to be – whether it was a report or a user manual for some of our software products.
Most businesses are said to have a love-hate relationship towards spreadsheets, but when it’s “report time” of the week, our colleague (who like most people once upon a time got a mild panic attack just by looking at an empty spreadsheet) has it easy.
She knows that her data is up to date because she just imported it.
Her reports had become an easy-read because she uses data visualization for report interpreting and conditional formatting for clear pointing out the important information.
She also doesn’t have to do it all by herself thanks to of real time collaboration which prevents invalid data or wrongfully built formulas to be embedded into our spreadsheets.
If you find this article useful when battling your own spreadsheet wars, let us know by sending an email with your experience to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be most thrilled to talk more on the subject.
When creating this content, we used this article for inspiration