The (hidden) costs of using a spreadsheet as a product management tool

Using a spreadsheet to manage more than a handful of products can cause unnecessary stress for your product managers, marketing team and graphic designers, and cause unwelcome delays and errors.

Spreadsheets are designed to present data assembled as rows and columns, performing numerical calculations and creating charts with ease. However, spreadsheets aren’t suitable for maintaining large amounts of text or even simple layout information.

A spreadsheet may handle the initial requirements of simple product management in a small team, especially when almost everyone has a spreadsheet installed on their computer. However, as requirements change and complexity grows, a spreadsheet may actually be costing you and your team hundreds of hours in lost productivity and errors.

Producty™ lets you import your existing spreadsheets into a purpose-built product management environment, allowing you to manage product and category hierarchy as well as detailed product information.

Producty™ helps your team to remain focussed and consistent across multiple products and product categories, as well as identifying issues with missing or sub-standard information early on in your project.

The following list explains some of the key shortcomings of using a spreadsheet for product information management:

Hierarchy is hard to maintain in a flat file

A spreadsheet is by definition a grid. Yet almost every product range has a hierarchical structure – from main categories to sub categories and then products. Maintaining product data in a spreadsheet results in the creation of many cells of repeated information, and makes it very difficult for a user to move a product from one category to another or to reorder categories or products.

Spreadsheets and images don’t mix

Most product-related output included images. Most spreadsheets aren’t good with images. Keeping track of hundreds of product and category images is a big enough task on its own. Keeping track of hundreds of images by linking or merging them within a spreadsheet is nigh on impossible.

Project management is not easy within a spreadsheet

Creating detailed and complex product-based output (such as a catalogue, website or series of product data sheets) usually requires the division of labour. Keeping track of where everyone is up do and what should be done next is very difficult within a spreadsheet. Colour coding and the use of status columns requires users to actively seek out status information.

Spreadsheets aren’t (usually) team friendly

Unless you’ve adopted a true cloud-based approach to your spreadsheet management then you will be almost inevitably limited to a single user having a spreadsheet open at once. This can seriously slow down your product management workflow and also put team members under unnecessary pressure to complete additions or edits within a very short and unreasonable time frame.

VLOOKUP , INDEX and MATCH, and other formulae aren’t foolproof

Even with the most careful checking and re-checking processes, if your spreadsheet contains multiple links, lookups, concatenations or other formulae then there is a very strong chance your spreadsheet will contain errors.

Spreadsheet experts are often  senior  managers

Product management shouldn’t be a function of the finance department or senior management. Good product management promotes the continuous improvement of detailed product data, product images and other product-related information. Requiring the daily input of a senior manager (or the CEO) to troubleshoot an issue with a spreadsheet is a distraction most businesses don’t need.