The other day, I was lamenting that I didn’t have visibility regarding the usage patterns in the application I work on. I wanted to know who was “at risk” and who was an emerging power user. (Being ‘At Risk’ means that you might not renew because you aren’t using the system much).
We had subjective input from the support team, but not a “system”. A system is when you have the data presented in a way where it is up-to-date and clearly expresses answers to your questions. We had hired a new guy to head up the renewals area, so I worked with him on a new system. The first question was “what is the foundation of our system?”
Here, I applied an age-old piece of wisdom:
I don’t know what the question is, but the answer is a spreadsheet.
Spreadsheets form some of the best systems in the world. Online spreadsheets have enormous potential because of this fact. The system we came up with took about an hour and completely changed how we view customer activity. It just took a couple of people a little time and a spreadsheet to fix a broken process.
The difference between a good system and a crappy one is literally hundreds of multiples of efficiency. It means the difference between “knowing” and “guessing”. Even though the “Database” really is the answer to much bigger questions, you would be surprised how far a spreadsheet could go.
Product Idea: A UI that looks EXACTLY like a spreadhseet, but is actually a powerful database on the backend. Billions of rows/columns are all acceptable and it’s fast. I wonder why Microsoft doesn’t build this. They have all the pieces of the puzzle. I wouldn’t even mind Desktop Software as the interface. I just want the data accessible from anywhere. I want to click “New online spreadsheet” and it stores it online and I can have super speed. Also, multiple people can edit at once. Oh, and I want it to babysit my kids.
Spreadsheets are awesome.