Friday, April 15, 2011

Excel is ALSO not a CRM ...

Further to the article 'Why Outlook is not a CRM', I wanted to do another one on why Excel cannot be a CRM, but since I found an article on the Maximizer CRM Central blog, the company who makes Maximizer CRM, written by Byron Heath and his case story demonstrates this so well, I have included his post below, after my major reason why Excel can not be a CRM...

Excel helps us make lists, reports, calculations and is an 'excel-lent' spreadsheet - but it really is not ideal to use as a CRM database. Here's my major reason why:

This is not an application 'equipped' to do customer follow ups, among other things. For example: you can not do with Excel date fields to give you a warning a few days or weeks in advance of the event to an action on that information, as an example: you're a florist and you have collected for some of your clients their wedding anniversary dates, two weeks before the date you want a reminder from your customer relationship management application for you to phone or send an email to your client with a message encouraging them to come by the store or go to your website to see your flower arrangements so they do not forget to celebrate this date. Another example: you have maintenance contracts for offices and a month before they expire, you want to be reminded to send a letter with a renewal of the contract.

Another important thing to consider: these warnings are tasks to do in your task list or in your calendar, Excel would not be the application that could help you manage these events. As you will see again, it is not a matter of eliminating Excel, but using it better, as we saw with Outlook.

Here is reposted, the article by Byron Heath, blogger on the Maximizer CRM Central blog:

You can read more on how to ‘Better Your Business with CRM’ on their blog:

Reporting and Backwards-Engineering a Data Structure: A True Story

Many years ago, in a land far, far away (it was India), my good friend Steve and I were brought in for a large upgrade of 185 users (Steve has since transitioned to pre-sales where he passes his wisdom to those considering purchasing Maximizer).

A company in India had an installation of Maximizer. The fact was they had not been utilizing Maximizer very well. There were issues in motivating people to do the data entry, Head Office had designed the database structure which did not fit their local needs, and most of all they were not generating any reports from the database.

On our first day we met with the Project Manager and the CRM committee. Their idea to improve the acceptance and use of Maximizer was to stop the manual generation of six very time consuming and important Excel reports, and generate them from the Maximizer database.

What we discussed with the project managers in India revolutionized how I approach implementation of Maximizer anywhere in the world today. (see Note 1)

The process they were using with Excel may be familiar for many of you: the six Excel spread sheets were, in fact, reports, but just happened to be used for data entry as well.

The existing process was:

  • 185 users all had a copy of each of the 6 Excel sheets.
  • Each filled in the data from customers and projects during the week
  • The users sent the excel spread sheets to their manager.
  • The middle manager consolidated the Excel sheets and sent a single sheet to the Regional Manager.
  • The Regional Manager consolidated the Excel sheets he received and sent them to the VP of Sales.
  • The VP of sales consolidated the Excel sheets into a single final report.
  • Sound familiar?

They saw the consolidation of the reports as the issue or waste of time in this process. We saw more then just the consolidation of databases as their issue:

  • Excel could still be used as the reporting tool, updated with the press of a button.
  • Maximizer being far superior tool for data entry as compared to Excel would also save the users time and effort.
  • We should use them as they were intended using Maximizer as the single data entry point and a single “live” Excel report.

It was like in a cartoon when a light bulb appears over your head: we all got it.

We went to work with what is now a process I go through for every new site and every new process or report:

  • Starting with the Excel sheets we mapped back each field in the report to the appropriate module and field in Maximizer
    o Where there were gaps and fields did not exist we created them in Maximizer.
  • After the field creation we worked on a custom training document for data entry
    o For each report a process for data entry was created.
  • Next, we recreated each report that would pull data live from Maximizer
    o We created queries to extract the data
    o Excel spread sheets were formatted to look like the original sheets they had used for data entry and connected to the query.
  • The result was a streamlined data entry process, a single data entry point in Maximizer and 6 “live” Reports in excel format
    o Data entry was reduced
    o Data at the central database was far more up to date as compared to multiple Excel sheets method
    o Reports could be run from any office or manager with the press of a button
    o It was a win-win situation for users and management.
This was the turning point for this company, and they never looked back. They now have tens of reports on which they rely in multiple formats: Excel, Access, and Crystal Reports. Each created using the same “backwards engineering” procedure we designed above.

Backwards engineering approach revolutionized my approach to new databases, reports or business processes and is something you will hear from me a great deal. It ensures the “core” needs of your CRM project are met and your data structure has a solid foundation from which to continue to build.


  1. Never build your database structure and then say ‘lets build a report”. Design your report and build the database structure based on the report or process
  2. Backwards Engineering ensures the “core” needs of your CRM project are met and your data structure has a solid foundation from which to continue to build.
  3. Don’t get caught up in how you have done things in the past. Map out your processes and reports and data entry process in what would be the “ideal” way not “this is how we used to enter our projects in ….”


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