It may be less difficult to convince CEOs that spreadsheets could act as a platform for corporate performance management than you think.
If there are still any CEOs out there who believe the road to data-driven decision making begins with throwing away Excel spreadsheets in favour of something more complicated, they should talk to Adam Goldstein first.
Goldstein is the CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which means he probably has the same pressure and dizzying array of things to keep his eye on as any senior executive. His solution, however, may sound unorthodox to some: essentially treating Excel as a diary for more than 12 years where he tracks both professional and personal priorities. The Wall Street Journal got the details:
Only important work events—board meetings, phone calls for an industry association he oversees—make it into the spreadsheet. About 95% of his daily schedule doesn’t make the cut. “It’s a higher altitude,” he says of his Excel system. By filtering events based on their importance—he’s the only one who adds items to the Excel file—the spreadsheet stays uncluttered and Mr. Goldstein can get a quick view of whether he’s getting too busy or spending too much time on the road. He can also fit his days together “like an intricate puzzle.”
In too many organizations, the real intricate puzzle is making sense of data in a way that provides meaningful insight to solve business problems. Whether it’s in finance, sales, marketing or another area of the business, there’s a common misconception that Excel simply lacks the flexibility to offer a long-term solution. Goldstein’s personal use of Excel offers a strong counterargument while also demonstrating what makes spreadsheets such a powerful mechanism for organizing and strategizing.
Of course, this would come as no surprise to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. While you might expect the head of one of the world’s largest technology companies to extol the virtues of his own product, Nadella recently spoke from the heart at the Aspen Ideas Conference about why the spreadsheet program represents everything he and his team and trying to do.
“Think about a world without Excel. That’s just impossible for me,” Nadella said, according to Business Insider. “People couldn’t make sense of numbers before, and now everybody can.”
This is a great way of thinking about what “platform” really means. A great platform democratizes information, capabilities and processes as widely as possible. A great platform brings or maintains simplicity, even as things change. And a truly great platform become so ubiquitous it becomes difficult to conceive its absence. That’s why Excel is a platform. Just ask these CEOs.
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