Excel spreadsheets provide a fantastic way to display information. You can sort on a column. You can filter on a column. You can chart the data. You can make crazy awesome Pivot Tables. You can connect data sources to the spreadsheet, so it updates with new data automatically. You can even create an application out of a spreadsheet. I have even heard of a company that ran operations from a spreadsheet that was updated nightly.
You can even print spreadsheets, capturing a view at a point in time. You can carry them to meetings and everyone can talk about items on the spreadsheet, “Line 5 lists the design decisions.” I bet you have been in meetings where spreadsheets are used as a central discussion point. “Hey wait. That is not what I have on line 5,” and someone realizes they have a different version. Then someone will ask, “What version of the spreadsheet are you looking at?”
Have you been there? This is one of the biggest issue with using spreadsheets, everyone can have a different version. So while spreadsheets have their awesomeness, you must be aware of possible issues when you use them. If you work a lot with spreadsheets you likely have a method for versioning.
A Better Way
There is a better way. As with so many things developed by Microsoft, the path leads to SharePoint. SharePoint provides a way for teams to collaborate on projects and related information, such as spreadsheet information. If information is in a spreadsheet, it can often be housed instead in a SharePoint List. This makes the data visible to all on the project. This makes the data easy for multi-user updating. Away goes the risk of versioning. Those on the project can subscribe to the list and get notification when there are changes. If needed, the data in the list can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet.
On large projects a shared repository of information is critical. SharePoint provides one method of making information accessible to everyone on a project and easy to maintain. When possible, exchange your use of spreadsheets for a List.
Lists Are Addicting
Lists can be used for many things. Below are a few ways a List can be used.
- Action Items
- Backlog of Work
- Definitions of Done
- Ideas List
- Issues & Risks
- Progress on Work
- Project Status
- Requirement Traceability
- Task Assignments
- Team Contacts
In addition to just being a List, items can be displayed on a web page, quantified, categorized, sorted and filtered. Lists can be reported on. There are so many things you can do with a List. Lists can track changes. Everyone can see the same List.
I will print and take a List with me to the grocery store and check items off my List. My wife has even gotten in on this and she makes me a Honey-Do List. I have to warn you. Use of Lists is addicting.
My name is Greg. I am a List addict.