Death by Spreadsheet – Part 2

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In part one of this article we considered a little bit of the history of spreadsheets, some of the positives of using them, but also some of the challenges of using them for enterprise deal construction.

Now, we will look at the role of spreadsheets for deals in the wider organisation, and our experience shows us that the problems are amplified. When considering the C and Q of CPQ we see further limitations:

  • Products are hard to define in a spreadsheet if there’s any level of complexity. Conditional rules are really hard to set up, and the user experience of a spreadsheet is rarely sophisticated enough for B2B sales.
  • Approvals are hard to manage too. We often see spreadsheets which need printing out with signature boxes for offline approval. In the age of e-signature and online approvals it’s hardly a cutting edge or robust solution.
  • Integration with related systems can be a big challenge. Sourcing data from spreadsheets and trying to meaningfully share it with CRM, customer service management, stock control, contracts and other supporting systems is often a real issue. Without integration, your users will need to re-key data and manually check for accuracy. The human factor adds the risk of errors and wastes time.
  • Sharing spreadsheets is easy enough by email, or on shared file systems, however true collaboration with real-time updates can cause problems of concurrent access. In this collaborative age you need tools that let your users work together on a deal.
  • From a sales perspective, spreadsheets don’t provide an effective way to promote cross-sell and up-sell opportunities to users.
  • High quality data driven documents simply can’t be generated easily from the data in a spreadsheet. This reduces the speed of response to the customer and misses the opportunity of providing well-designed, professional and relevant responses to customers enquiries for quotes and proposals.

Don’t get me wrong, spreadsheets are an amazing tool. We love them and use them in our business. We know many organisations that have an awesome blend of a professional CPQ system as the backbone of their deal construction process, using spreadsheets to deep-dive and perform iterative analysis when necessary.

Overall this is just about using the right tool for the job, and making a conscious, informed and mindful decision about what tools you employ. As your deal spreadsheets grow in scale and complexity, and as they reach out of the finance and pricing team and start to touch sales, just make sure you consider whether you are giving all your team the professional tools they need.

In many cases our experience says it’s time to get your deal data out of Excel and into the CPQ cloud

Click to read part one of this article.

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