Why spreadsheets are bad news for contact management The reason why small businesses use spreadsheets for contact-management has puzzled me for a long time.  In my role on the support desk for CONTACTfile, have seen it over and over again.  Typically, people will list their contacts down the first column of a worksheet, and use other columns  for further details (such as address and telephone number).  Maybe they will use more columns for indicating a category each one might be in.  Then, some people will duplicate this list of the contacts onto a separate worksheet in order to carry out a short-term recording process, such as who would like to attend an event.  And it doesn't stop there; I have seen separate sheets used for invoicing, for marking who has responded to an offer, and a variety of other things needed to manage a business.  A spreadsheets is not the right tool for the job of contact-management.  It's like using a wheelbarrow to do the shopping; it does the job eventually, but requires far greater effort, and creates havoc on the way!

The underlying problem with spreadsheets arise because of their flexibility of use.  One might think that flexibility in a software package is 'a good thing' but in business-management terms it can be dangerous because it allows for inconsistency.  More often than not I am given spreadsheets where the list of 'names' consist of a mix of individuals, organisations, or couples, so that anything done with that list omits to record WHO you are dealing with.  Moreover, the temptation to copy/paste a list of names is too great!  For as soon as you have a name listed twice, the trouble begins; someone moves home or changes job, you change one instance and forget the others, then eventually you won't remember which is correct.  Spreadsheets are bad news for business management, because inconsistency equals a  mess, and a mess equals inefficiency.

I have just spent at lot of time sorting out data for a local charity, having got themselves into inefficient working.  They’d been using a spreadsheet for contacts, and had different columns serve as categories by entering a “y” under the right heading.  Needless to say, it didn’t serve them very well, for all the reasons already mentioned.  

The use of a proper contact-management (or customer relationship management - CRM) system makes life a lot easier because all this is automated and therefore much more dependable.  A good CRM system like CONTACTfile will allow the entry of a name only once, and then feeds this through to wherever else it is needed.  And once groups have been identified, they can be used for bulk emailing, labels, exporting, etc. etc.  Flexibility is given where it helps rather than hinders; you can still have your own column headings.  It gives me the greatest satisfaction to see clients benefit from the change.  From spreadsheets to CONTACTfile.  There's never any going back!