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September 6, 2019

How LBT can Help SMEs Banish Spreadsheet Data Silos – for Good!

Spreadsheets may be damaging your business!

Most of us know it’s inefficient and we really shouldn’t be doing it. Yet approaching the year 2020, many small and medium sized businesses are choosing to store and manipulate vast quantities of their data in spreadsheets!  At first glance it may seem like a cheap solution; After all Excel comes as part of the Microsoft Office family which is a mainstay of most office computers. Meanwhile, little training is required to operate it with most clerical staff having at least a basic working knowledge of the programme. But do not be fooled – as small businesses grow, those that do not invest in an appropriate software to house and manage their data, often find themselves at a disadvantage. If you have an expanding SME that is heavily reliant on processing customer details and other data using spreadsheets, this practice may start to damage business growth!

So why do spreadsheets put growing SMEs at such a disadvantage? And what are data silos?

The problem is that when a business grows more and more data is obtained and processed. What may have been easy to manage in one spreadsheet by a single person becomes far less simple when multiple spreadsheets are being used across different departments by numerous people. The same data may also be duplicated and re-entered at multiple points – for instance the details of a new customer may be entered by the sales team, accounts for invoicing, production in relation to an order, followed by dispatch when an order is complete. Not only is this highly inefficient, it increases the chance of administrative errors impacting service delivery for the customer.

Data silos are the pinnacle of problems that occur when storing data in spreadsheets. They appear when a set of data can only be accessed by one group within the organisation – This is particularly dangerous because it is hard for management to get an accurate overall snapshot of organisational performance in real time, with crucial information not reaching those who may need it. Of course there may be times when confidential data needs to be ring-fenced, but unfortunately many data silos are an unintentional product of poor data handling.

The solution – Replacing spreadsheets with business database software

In an ideal world, if staff in your small business were overwhelmed and restrained by countless spreadsheets, you would seek a slick business software solution to store and process business data, allowing it to flow seamlessly between departments and everyone who requires access. However, with separate packages available for different business functions and industry sectors finding a single solution that works across the business is never an easy task. Making investments in the wrong software can be extremely costly and we believe it’s why many SMEs continue to use spreadsheets as their safety blanket. Yet continuing with spreadsheets indefinitely will eventually impede growth and lead to competitive disadvantage versus more adventurous competitors.

The suggestion that a basic customer relationship management (CRM) system can solve all of your spreadsheet problems is a common misconception. Although this may go some way to alleviating the issue, the benefits usually centre around the marketing and sales function without improving data entry and procedures across other departments. In fact, a simple CRM system may have little impact on organisational efficiency unless it allows integration with other business systems. Banishing the spreadsheet data silos is about a much deeper approach – taking a holistic view of data flows within the organisation and formulating a plan to link everything together…. And banishing those misused, wordy spreadsheets for good!

How can LBT help my SME business to banish the spreadsheet ‘database’?

The team at LBT combines IT support professionals accustomed to helping SMEs with their IT strategy, business software and day to day IT requirements with an in-house bespoke software development team. We developed the much-loved Associate software for SMEs. A unique, dynamic and customisable software, Associate has been used as the business software of choice by customers from industries as diverse as waste management to magazine publishers for decades.

Associate is continually updated and now encompasses desktop, tablet and a cloud-based mobile version. Much more than a CRM system for the sales and marketing team, Associate can be used straight out of the box to manage all correspondence with prospects and customers throughout their interaction with the business from initial enquiry to management of their project, assigning staff to jobs, incident reporting and customisable reporting. With our team of inhouse software developers we are able to integrate the core Associate software with other common software packages via APIs meaning that your data will flow seamlessly without multiple entry points. Not only that, we are able to build and implement a range of extensions that enable Associate to be tailored precisely to the needs of your business sector.

So, if you are running an SME that is being held back by a reliance on spreadsheets, LBT may just have the perfect solution to propel your business forward. We offer a free initial consultation, so now there really is no excuse! Click here or call 01763 275 400 to book yours today and banish those spreadsheets for good!