The Symptoms of Spreadsheet Syndrome

Sometimes even the most perfectly laid plans can go awry. Just because an idea sounds great on paper, doesn’t always mean it will pan out perfectly in reality. This is a failure also known as “spreadsheet syndrome”.

Often times “spreadsheet syndrome” is a hard habit to break. Logically it should work, so why not go for it. However, customer and employee emotion isn’t always logical. That emotion isn’t translatable into paper and data either. However, customer and employee emotion are two huge factors in making business decisions. Without them, a company wouldn’t exist.

Take for example the 2013 Avon ERP implementation failure:

Avon, a multi-level marketing makeup retail company, decided to move their ordering process from a call center to an online mobile ordering system. This multi-million dollar move, on paper, made sense. It was supposed to save Avon millions ever year. What the company failed to take into account was their employees and customers.

Avon relies heavily on part-time sales representatives who sell to family and friends. Often, these representatives bring in around $100 a month. When Avon rolled out their mobile ordering system, many of the representatives found it difficult to use. Problems were reported with logging into the system, saving orders and reserving inventory. Some sales representatives who faced these problems decided they were better off without them and left the company, taking their customers with them. A reported 16,000 sales representatives in Canada left Avon because of the failed ERP implementation.

This ERP implementation failure shows that the upper-level management of Avon was detached from their employees. They did not take into account that their sales representatives have a wide age range, and wide range of digital proficiency. This was a clear case of “spreadsheet syndrome”. In a perfect world, it may have worked, but not with their employee and customer base.

It is important to pay attention to your employees and customers because “hard data” isn’t always the smart option.

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