Or … from WFH to WTF?

Imagine a normal day in a normal office, at normal times (which, sadly, ‘now’ is not).

You need to update a spreadsheet that the entire department needs to constantly update. But it opens ‘Read-Only’, currently opened for updating by Brian. You look over the partition, Brian sits a few metres away, and you politely (!) ask him to get the hell out of it because your need is more urgent (and of course you out-rank him and shouting helps!)

When working online, even on a spreadsheet on OneDrive, this is not as easy. It was bad enough in the office, this is worse.

Sharing workbooks s just one of the many bottlenecks we face when trying to do normal office work from home. Others include Excel models that have external links to consolidate (often 100s and at many levels of grouping), and our traditional ‘inbox and outbox’ manner of office work, where we email spreadsheets to each other quite unnecessarily.

You can read my article on the Institute of Certified Management Accountants of Australia, co-authored with Professor Janek Ratnatunga (CEO of the ICMA) here. ‘COVID-19: New challenges for Management Accountants in the ‘Work from home’ environment’.

The Current Conversation


  • Co-Authoring
  • Google Sheets
  • Emailing spreadsheets to each other

But … there is little or no conversation on streamlining spreadsheet processes as you can with simple (no-frills) Cloud architecture. I call this methodology ‘the Cloud Idea’ to signify that you don’t actually need ‘cloud’ to create this advantage – a shared drive in your department or organisation will do.

The Advantages of ‘the Cloud Idea’

The principle behind this is storing spreadsheet data outside the spreadsheets. ‘Spreadsheets’ plural as workflows commonly involve many people and many spreadsheets.

Why outside? Paraphrasing the gist of many articles I have written on this – on spreadsheets we do 4 things. (1) Presentation (2) the logic and (3) the user interface, and (4) we store data on them. I have shown elsewhere (here and here etc) that the one single culprit in many of our spreadsheet woes is (4). By storing the data in a centrally accessible location we avoid most of the obstacles we have to navigate every day.

This is easier to demonstrate than to explain.

etc. to be continued

Hiran de Silva

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