It is very common for organizations embarking on building a digital enterprise to identify Excel based business processes and bring them into the fold of enterprise business systems. An overarching goal of any digital transformation initiative is to provide a seamless user experience from start to end, and this is only possible if every hop in the process is digitized. This means all the data and events related to this hop are captured in an integrated system instead of a silo operation that is managed using desktop tools such as Excel, interactive PDF, etc.
However, converting an Excel-based process to an online application is a major undertaking. A typical project team would compose of participants with various skills – a project manager, business analyst, UX designer, front-end developer, backend developer, API developer, DevOps, QA, and many more. Those projects with severe technical shortages and no end in sight for things to improve are the first ones to be dropped out leaving a big gap in the overall digital transformation plans. As per a recent study, 64% of IT executives have cited the unavailability of talent as the leading factor inhibiting the adoption of emerging technologies.
In this blog, I would like to share how you can make Excel your friend and accelerate your digital transformation journey by leveraging the Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a standout technology in the Intelligent Process Automation space.
We have heard about it several times and probably experienced it personally. Change Management from an Excel based process to an online process is one of the most difficult aspects. Users also consider several productivity features that Excel offers which are often missing in the replacement solutions. The only thing that is being offered to the impacted users is to adopt the “greater good” and they have to be a team players in order to support the overall project goals.
There are many features in Excel that make it stand out for the users like allowing them to download their data from an online system to Excel, make the required changes, and painstakingly update the online system record by record. I once converted a quarterly sales planning process from Excel to a CRM Territory Management process and I remember an embarrassing incident where I was unable to fulfill a simple request from a District Manager asking if I can show the negative targets in red color. It’s another story why we were unable to fulfill this simple request, but in two words, it’s because of “packaged solutions”. But this is a request that can be fulfilled by doing simple conditional formatting in excel without needing to write a line of code.
And thanks to Office365, the user experience of Excel is just going through the roof. With the continuous rollout of new features with Microsoft and a vast global community of Excel users, the possibilities of what you can achieve in Excel are limitless. My favorite feature is the collaboration which I have learned from one of my previous managers – an ability to add cell level comments and the ability to mention your colleague for their feedback, not to mention the mobile friendly experience for instant on-the-go collaboration. Imagine implementing this feature in your online application, which would take weeks if not months of your scarce development hours off the actual business goal of your application.
Having discussed the amazing features of Excel, please allow me to explain how Excel can be your friend. For an online application, there is usually a system of engagement which is either a web or a mobile fronted-end which are frequently referred to as backend apps. The backend development is usually manageable as these systems mature over a long time in the organization. But, it’s the front-end development that is very challenging, as you compete with Big Tech and other organizations trying to be a digital leader in their industry such as FinTech, HealthTech, FoodTech, etc. This is where Excel can help, allowing you to make or keep Excel as the system of engagement, you have already net positive from the OCM (Organization Change Management) for letting the users continue to use Excel for their process. And then the next step is to link your Excel to your system of record, which I propose you leverage the power of RPA technologies that can easily read the date in your spreadsheet and record the transactions into your system of record just like how a typical user interacts with them.