Why do employees continue to use Excel when they have more robust tools at their fingertips?
We set out to uncover the mystery.
How We Started – Gauging the lay of the land
- Shadowed employees across the work flow of key tasks – software users, software developers, software procurers, and other influencers.
- Read Standard Operating Procedures.
- Talked with managers about how they believed teams were doing work.
Next, First Synthesis – Theory vs Practice
We observed differences between the Standard Operating Procedures and the carrying out of work.
We documented, and verified with employees, the key tasks in workflows and where they used Excel over the newer tools.
We ran weekly presentations of research-in-progress to a cross-section of employees, making sure several teams had representation at each session.
Playback to teams
We created posters with maps and diagrams showing how data points worked their way through projects:
- How teams connected.
- Data lifespan – up to 25 years in some instances.
- Tools inventories.
Consequences of using Excel
- Information locked down in Excel files on local hard drives.
- Knowledge sharing handicapped – unable to search company-wide across all project information.
- Employees developed custom macros that the next team did not know how to use/fix/amend.
- Adherence to the Standard Operating Procedures varied.
We ran some targeted Design sprints to help teams move toward revising the Standard Operating Procedures and weaning them off Excel.
Then we planned some projects to test the proposed processes.
Over six months, we worked with individual teams to action projects, inlcuding:
1. Benchmarking Team – Put an Excel sheet on line in O365. A simple hack that reduced errors, freeing up time for analytical work that added business value.
2. Mud Engineering Team – Developed a GANS / Dueling Neural Networks experiment in a Chemistry lab.
3. Finance Team – Rolled out a new Financial Memoranda Process.
4. Lab Team – Planned a Roadmap of software, hardware, and organisational projects to hit the Business Unit’s Strategic goals.
5. HR Team – Prepared and delivered a Design Thinking taster session for HR recruitment that was subsequently embedded into the recruitment process.