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Ignaz Forstmeier
Ignaz Forstmeier
Co-Founder [& former CMO] at Personio
14 Mar, 2021 · 3 min read

Knowing when to break up with spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are still the most popular tool for working with data, especially in the early days of a digital venture. They are straightforward, flexible and familiar to most employees. Supercharged with a tool like Supermetrics, they can even load data from many online sources. 

So why ever change that?

All the conveniences make it even more likely you miss the point in your growth cycle at which you must replace Spreadsheets with a scalable business intelligence tool, or end up with hard-to-fix issues.

The big danger is: Some of these issues irreversibly destroy trust in your data among employees, decreasing their willingness to rely on data for decision making altogether. This goes against the vision of any data-driven organization, striving to use more high-quality data over time. Therefore, it's crucial to evolve your data stack before it's too late and know...

When to break up with spreadsheets

Below are some clear warning signals we observed when speaking to our customers, many of which are medium-sized DTC and ecommerce companies with strong growth:

  • It's unclear how certain metrics in your company are calculated. The logic defining how data flows from the source into your most important reports is a blackbox 

  • If data looks fishy, you have to backtrack and sanity check your numbers all the way to the data source manually

  • Just a few team members still understand the “web of spreadsheets” and become go-to-persons for all data requests and therefore bottleneck for all people in need of data

  • Reporting errors might come to light later and create embarrassing situations for “spreadsheet owners” and management

  • Once more than a few people rely on the same data, your spreadsheets show errors, disappear or break due to individual editing 

  • If your reports show anomalies, it is unclear whether there is an actual business problem or just a reporting error

  • Employees create their „own truths“ in separate spreadsheets, which leads to a variety of contradicting insights that make alignment impossible

  • Updating data takes longer and longer due to the increasing number of data sources. Insights can only be gained retroactively and the numbers detach from your actual business

As a rule of thumb, here is when we recommend B2C companies to “break up” and look at a scalable BI solution in order to avoid many issues preemptively: 

  • Yearly revenues around € 500k 

  • Growth > 50% year over year

  • Paid online marketing as important growth driver

Given your company is growing, you will soon reach a point at which using spreadsheets for business intelligence is no longer feasible. Being proactive about your data infrastructure has little downside, but allows you to avoid big pains down the road. If paid marketing makes up a large share of your budget, increased marketing efficiency will be another side-benefit of setting up proper reporting early on. 

And whoever is constantly fixing those spreadsheet reports of yours will be glad they can focus on more value-adding data tasks again. 😉

Book a call with one of our data experts and learn how you can get out of spreadsheets hell ;)

Y42 is an end-to-end BI solution scaling with your company from 100k to 100m in revenues. The tool can be operated without coding by a savvy business user, or by an entire data team, since it runs state-of-the-art data tech like Google BigQuery, Kafka and Airflow “under the hood”.

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