It’s all too easy to fall into the temptation of signing up for apps and services that tell you, “You need this in order to have the edge against your competition!” We all want that seemingly perfect tool that will magically answer our every need. The issue with new software though, is that we often fall for a service that promises a solution, and it ends up complicating the problem, or worse: the expensive new tool goes unused by your team.
The good news is that there is a different approach. We don’t have to rely on Google find the perfect app for us. And we don’t have to hire a programmer to see our dream realized. The solution? Create a spreadsheet.
Yes, I’m a consultant, and founder of an IT company that helps organizations integrate new software into their operations, and I’m telling you to hold off on buying anything, and build a quick spreadsheet instead. Why? A few reasons….
The original Swiss Army knife
You’d be surprised how easily a spreadsheet can fix an array of problems relating to tracking, calculating, discussing, trending, etc.
The spreadsheets of today aren’t like Excel from 1998.
If you haven’t tried it yet, create a Google Sheet, or a (recently announced) iWork Numbers document and see how easy it is to work on a document with other people on your team at the same time, in real-time. No need to save versions of the file and email copies back and forth anymore since you’re always working on the same file. We still use about 4 online spreadsheets because it’s much easier than buying complex software to manage these edge cases of our operations and finance.
When you’re starting out, it’s important that you get to the root of the problem rather than getting caught up in extra features and automations that other software tools will offer you out of the gate.
Define your problem
You may end up needing to buy a service down the road that solves the solution elegantly. In fact, you probably WILL need something more full featured in a few months from now. But creating your simple solution from scratch will help you define your real problems so you know exactly what to shop for when the time comes. As Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma would put it, what job are you hiring this app for? If you haven’t heard his Jobs to Be Done theory, it’s gold.
Spend your time wisely
Starting simple is extremely important when you consider how much time it takes to integrate a new platform in your company. Whether your company is comprised of a single person or 100 people, it’s going to take you three months minimum to settle into a routine with a new app. So do everything you can to make that transition worthwhile.
It doesn’t have to be a spreadsheet, per se
Maybe it’s not a spreadsheet. Instead, it’s a blank document where you write down issues, problems and potential solutions. That’ll work too. At the risk of going against what I’m challenging you with, you could even try a simple app to test the idea. Something like Basecamp or Trello, for example, is basic enough to where you can see if the tools work without much investment. But, in the event that these tools are overkill, stick to a column and some rows.
Before spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars implementing the latest app or software every business owner thinks they need, I challenge you to go a different direction. Understand what the real need is first. Have your actual problem defined, not the problem that some website tells you that you have. Then build something to act as a temporary solution with the help of your peers. After all, they’re the ones who will be using this tool 8 hours a day along side you. And if or when you decide to buy a full-featured software solution, everyone on your team will be on board because the real need was defined together.