The amount of work getting done using spreadsheets and elbow grease is astonishing.
Look, we get it. Spreadsheets changed everything. People could organize or track or calculate on their own, without waiting for an app to be created, or software to be purchased. Spreadsheets are just plain empowering.
Many years ago I was the IT manager at a mid-sized organization that had some seriously hefty accounting apps running on very expensive hardware. If a field manager had a feature request that was actually ever approved, it could take months and months to see it come to fruition. Instead of asking for new features in the software, field managers would simply ask their admins to take the data available to them, put it into spreadsheets, and create their own reports and features.
And guess what? IT WORKED!
I was stuck between two frustrations. On the one hand, I was a systems guy. Having been a programmer, and wanting to create systems and apps and reports that could benefit everyone, I wished it was easier to get some of these things pushed through. But, of course, there were real issues such as budget (who was going to pay for new features) and priorities (getting some of the corporate accounting needs fixed were higher priority than a “cool idea” a field office had).
On the other hand, sympathizing with the field manager’s needs of getting things done, why in the world would you submit a request for a new feature, have to wait months and months to get something that kind of met your needs, and having it hit your expenses? Why not, instead, just ask one someone on your team to just spend a day or two and make something that meets your needs exactly, and you can use and tweak forever?
This is the beauty of spreadsheets.
There are, however, downsides. Let’s talk specifically about Performance Improvements or Incentives Systems.
Imagine you have a spreadsheet to manage your incentives and rewards. Your spreadsheet incentives system depends on getting good and accurate data in, proper calculations, and timely delivery of whatever the output/outcomes are.
Let’s break this down:
Your incentive system depends on timely, good, and accurate data in
Restaurant Use Case:
This immediately makes me think about how Snowfly ties into systems restaurant servers use for orders and receipts. When a server upsells a drink, for example, that goes into Snowfly automatically. Imagine you have a restaurant with 10 servers, all upselling. That is a lot of drinks to record. Now, imagine the difference between parking someone at the register to record everyone’s upsells for the night vs just tapping into the system and having those upsells automatically sent to Snowfly (or your cool tracking spreadsheet). Hands down, the automated version is better. It’s more reliable, it doesn’t need to take a pee break, won’t play favorites, won’t make mistakes, and probably costs less.
Make no mistake: we at Snowfly LOVE humans! Really, we do! We just think there are certain things a computer does way better, allowing you to redeploy your humans to jobs that are more impactful and perhaps more rewarding to them.
Next, your incentives system depends on proper calculations
Okay, let’s be honest. How many times have you had your own spreadsheet that required some tweaking. And then more tweaking, and more tweaking?
Many years ago I created JibberJobber, a CRM for job seekers. More than one career coach has called me thanking me for creating an app that would replace their clients’ spreadsheets. “Engineers are the worst!” they would tell me. “Engineers,” they said, “spent almost all their time tweaking and improving the spreadsheet instead of networking and doing other job search stuff.”
Sound familiar? Tweaking and improving is good, but in this case the engineers were using their cool systems (spreadsheets) to hide from what they really should have been doing. They were neglecting their duties so they could stay in a comfort zone.
I’m not saying your team is neglecting their duties by continually tweaking manual spreadsheets, but I have seen spreadsheets break when they are tweaked too much. Many times we do sophisticated formulas and calculations, adding neat logic here and clever logic there, and after a while you need a computer science degree to do anything with it!
More than once, systems like this have been too complicated to realize there were logic errors, resulting in erroneous output.
One of the benefits of having a corporate system to do calculations like these is that the system is not tweakable by every admin. The formulas and logic are created in a black box and no one can break them. Sure, you can get different reports, and see the results in different ways, but you don’t have the ability to get in and mess things up, either bringing the system down or making mistaken changes that go unnoticed.
Let’s call this “maintaining the integrity of the system.” There needs to be one owner who knows how the black box works, and can make changes in a systematic and tested way, instead of creating part time jobs for admins who want to clean and tweak and fix and improve, increasing the chances that the logic gets broken.
Finally, your incentives system depends on timely delivery of whatever the output/outcomes are
This is the end of week or end of month results that everyone on your team is waiting for. Who won? Who gets the Amazon card? Who gets the prize and why?
If people are waiting for some extra, earned cash on their paycheck, or to see who the grand prize winner is during the company lunch, and there is a delay, they get restless. Trust in the incentives system decreases, and people wonder if their extra efforts into what management calls “performance” is questioned.
You don’t want your rewards or incentives or performance initiatives questioned! You need them to work seamlessly, without error or without delay. If the person who manages the spreadsheet, collecting and validating all of the data, and making sure the outcomes look right, has to go to the hospital is or stuck on a COVID-quarantined cruise ship with no end in sight, people have sympathy for the circumstances but they still want their rewards.
Regular mistakes or delays will erode any trust in the system and you’ll have a horror story on your hands. A story of a failed management attempt to create a better culture that backfired. This is, as we say, “NO BUENO.”
Of course, Snowfly has an answer for your legacy system
Snowfly has been in this business for decades. We’ve transitioned teams from spreadsheets and sticky notes and paper to our automated systems.
Of course we address each of the issues presented in this blog post. We’re not out to take anyone’s job away from them, and have found that the admins can easily be deployed to other, more impactful and more satisfying roles.
If you are on a legacy incentives or performance system… that is, if what you are doing is too manual, then LET’S TALK! We’re ready to show you what we have!