How to Automate any Spreadsheet-based Business Process and Bring it Online

5 Min Read

Unsecured, hard to maintain, and prone to error – spreadsheets discourage collaboration and create data silos. Every business has them, and while they may not have been an issue historically, in today’s demand-driven and fast-moving landscape – outdated spreadsheet-based processes could very well mean the difference between gaining market share and losing it!

Spreadsheets might be a versatile tool to collect, integrate, format, and present data – but they also happen to be the leading cause of siloes in businesses; with their usefulness further diminishing when faced with growing data sets, multiple users, and the need to map and link data to get meaningful insights.

This blog explains why spreadsheets at scale are problematic, shares the benefits of business process automation, and explains how to identify the right tool that has the capability to automate any spreadsheet-based business process and bring it online.

Bringing your Business Processes Online 

If you are a small organisation with less than 20 employees, then the automation of your business processes is probably a low priority. But in larger organisations where processes require more than 20 people to access the same spreadsheet, business leaders must take a long hard look at bringing their business processes online.

While it might seem like an efficient way for businesses to use multiple spreadsheets to run different processes and capture information – things can get out of hand. Even if your team is small, it does not mean its exempt from human errors and silos that stem from a lack of data governance and disconnected spreadsheet-based processes.

Why are businesses leaving spreadsheets behind?

By 2024, the market for workflow automation and related technologies is expected to expand by 20% annually and reach $5 billion USD – yet there are many enterprises that remain unaware of the benefits that these simplified new technological approaches offer.

Although spreadsheets might appear initially versatile for light-weight tasks, platforms that offer better data management, visualisation, collaboration, and integration options exist for when businesses need a more robust solution.

Break Free from the Spreadsheets Running Your Business by Bringing Your Business Processes Online

A 2021 report found that 94% of small to medium business employees that were surveyed attested to the fact that they perform repetitive, time-consuming tasks. It also went on to note that 90% acknowledge workers found that automation vastly improved their jobs, while another 66% said automation made them more productive.

Today every department in an organisation could use a workflow automation system – from operations, sales, and marketing to human resources and finance – these kinds of software platforms are great for automating tasks and implementing defined processes – enabling multiple teams to work in a consistent format.

Automating business processes comes with many benefits for any enterprise which chooses to implement a system into their organisation’s day-to-day operations. organisations generally seek to transform their manual processes in order to boost productivity, cut costs, stay compliant, eliminate paper-based processes, reduce errors, scale their operations, and free up their team’s time to focus on jobs that require human intellect.

Workflow automation is most often used when you have multiple employees feeding into a process to capture data, you want to structure a step-by-step process involving multiple stakeholders, you want to formalise signoffs, escalations, and approvals, you need to track when data was entered and who by, and you need to report on the data captured. When used in such cases, workflow automation enables an organisation to streamline its business processes and increase workplace efficiency and productivity.

Consider a simple process, like keeping an emerging risk register, an incident management log, or asset management directory. Spreadsheets would be a logical place to start – but would soon get out of hand. Whereas managing & automating processes like these in a software platform brings a wealth of advantages including:

  • Most software platforms are online SaaS solutions -meaning the system can be accessed from anywhere.
  • Rather than employees logging data into a spreadsheet, data is completed via online forms that feed directly into the platform. This allows for strict data governance as teams can define menus, dropdowns, and pre-set fields to ensure data is captured in a consistent format. They can also define mandatory fields, ensuring employees never leave fields blank.
  • The online logs are searchable and can be easily filtered to view specific information.
  • A complete log is captured of who entered what information and when – producing an instant audit trail of events.
  • A permissions hierarchy can be defined to hide sensitive data and simplify processes ensuring employees only see the data relevant to them – making it easy for employees to prioritise tasks.
  • Workflow automation can be used to keep processes moving. If data needs to be entered on a weekly basis, weekly emails can be automated to relevant employees to remind them to enter the data – and if they don’t do it, reminders are automatically sent. Workflows can also be used for approvals, checks, and escalations to ensure processes move onto the next stage without delay.
  • Task and action management becomes simple, employees receive automated reminders of their tasks, and they can easily view their workload priorities on their own personal dashboard and complete actions online.
  • Control monitoring can also be used to flag things like missed deadlines, SLAs, KPIs, and high data levels that could signify a problem. Teams can use control monitoring to set any rules they wish, and notifications are automatically sent to the relevant stakeholder to take action.
  • Getting insights from the data is also much simpler when teams use an online automated solution. These platforms tend to come with a range of out-of-the-box dashboards & reports – making it easy for leaders to visualise the data, address problems, report to senior stakeholders.As the reports are produced instantly at the touch of a button, they are always up-to-date. This cuts out time spent on building reports – leaving employees with time to analyse the data and identify process improvements.
  • If an organisation manages multiple processes in the same system, they can even link and map data sets – ensuring a single source of truth and providing deep insights into business performance metrics. This enables companies to link ‘incidents’ or ‘assets’ to their risk library or control register, or map compliance requirements and regulatory changes to their business process register. The mapping possibilities are endless, and the data supports businesses to understand the impact of different teams and departments across the entire enterprise.

One of the many struggles-modern organisations face is choosing the best system to manage its business operations. Buying stand-alone tools and point solutions might seem initially cheaper and more effective than purchasing a complete integrated software solution – but over time this results in an enterprise using multiple different applications that accrue high software costs and lack integration between systems. Using multiple systems ultimately culminates in siloed data & multiple versions of the truth – it can also be problematic for your IT teams to support many different platforms.

In many cases, point solutions for one particular use case are very rigid, and systems can be over complicated or not suited to the individual bespoke needs of the organisation. In addition, the platforms are often unable to be customised to align to an organisations specific business process. Therefore, when choosing a platform, make sure that you select one with flexible workflows, and customisable forms, menus, and dropdowns – this will ensure the solution can be easily tailored to match any specific process requirements.

But the main benefit of managing multiple business processes in one platform is the insights you can get from the data. Imagine a world where you can link incidents back to the originating risks and controls. Where you can link your business process register to risks & compliance obligations, and where you can link enterprise performance & project management to your overarching strategy. When you opt for a flexible solution like the Camms platform, processes can be linked together, and every employee in the entire organisation will have access and be able to input data – with no chance of ruining that pesky spreadsheet!

Start your Digital Transformation with Camms Today 

Alongside its core GRC capabilities, the Camms platform can digitise & streamline your business workflows & registers by bringing any business processes online – enabling organisations to replace spreadsheets, legacy platforms, and manual processes with structured comprehensive best-practice systems. The online forms, workflows, and digital registers reduce the administrative burden, increase operational efficiency, and provide deep insights into business performance.

The flexible nature of the solution means users can;

  • Design the forms, registers, and workflows to meet the specific needs and terminology of your organisation.
  • Extract data from other systems and sources via API integrations to ensure a single source of truth.
  • Access a wide variety of dashboards, and design bespoke ones to meet specific reporting requirements.
  • Create an external facing portal – enabling vendors, contractors and other third parties to submit online forms, questionnaires, and surveys – with all data feeding directly into the platform.
  • Leverage workflows to define processes and send notifications for approvals, escalations, and overdue actions – to keep things moving.
  • Set rules & controls to send notifications when data reaches a certain level, or a deadline is missed.

Plus organisations already using the Camms platform for GRC requirements, can link data back to any originating risks, controls, or compliance obligations.

Here are just some of the processes that can be automated using the Camms platform:

  • Asset Management
  • Gifts & Gratuities
  • Accidents & Incidents
  • Cyber Incidents
  • Emerging Risks
  • Opportunity Management
  • Control Testing
  • Vendor Management
  • Health Safety & Wellbeing
  • Threat & Vulnerability Testing
  • Conflicts of Interest & Disclosures
  • Feedback & Complaints
  • Workplace Inspections, Audits & Checklists
  • Contractor Management & Inductions
  • Anonymous Reporting & Whistleblowing
  • Dangerous Goods/Hazardous Chemicals Register
  • Questionnaires & Surveys
  • Issues Log

At a volatile time when almost every business is faced with the need to cut costs – automating their business processes is a vital approach that helps to restructure workloads across every department, without having to make difficult decisions about their workforce.

Business leaders should be focused on understanding problems, identifying solutions, and aligning stakeholders on transformation. There are many reasons why people & businesses will continue to use spreadsheets for at least the next decade, but over time overusing spreadsheets can really hamper your business and the adoption of automated software solutions is expected to rise.

With pre-built digital processes & solutions available out-of-the-box – ready and waiting to jumpstart efficiencies – business process automation eliminates the bottlenecks that lead to lost time & revenue; and offer the quickest return of any resource-saving measures.

“Manual processes including spreadsheets are to blame for costly errors, silos, disconnected data, and decreased efficiency in every department. Automating processes across the business saves time and resources and provides a holistic view for better decision-making”
– Beau Murfitt, Chief Revenue Officer at Camms

To start your digital transformation with Camms, request a demo of Camms workflows and registers module today.

Daniel Kandola

Vice President, EMEA

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