That said, Excel isn’t always the best choice. Below, we’ll identify the scenarios in which spreadsheet management works well enough, and point out some other options for when it’s time to upgrade.
There are three types of companies that can benefit from using a spreadsheet to create and manage their Balanced Scorecard:
As we mentioned previously, Excel is often lauded as being a cost-saving option. But beware that there are a few hidden costs associated with Excel reporting that you should keep in mind before creating your scorecard.
So, while Excel scorecards can work for the aforementioned three situations, it’s important to note that creating a Balanced Scorecard in Excel can go wrong when a lot of people get involved or if the scorecard becomes complex. It’s imperative that you only have a single author so your team stays on the same version of the scorecard. If this doesn’t happen—and you have many people making changes at the same time—you can end up creating a costly nightmare.
Excel is the most popular spreadsheet tool, but many organizations also use Google Sheets to manage their spreadsheets and information. So if you've decided that a spreadsheet and presentation tool is the best route for you, here's some background information to help decide between Excel and Google Sheets.
The following benefits are unique to Excel:
The primary downfall of Excel is the lack of version control. You have to save all new versions, and when you send out the document for collaboration or editing, you have to cross your fingers and hope you have the most updated XLS scorecard file. You’ve probably been in a situation where you rush to send out, say, “Revenue-By-City-V4.xlsl” right before a meeting. An hour later it dawns on you that the most current version––also named “Revenue-By-City-V4.xlsx”––is sitting on your desktop.
Other issues you’ll likely encounter with using Excel:
For more information on how using Excel can have some time-sucking or dangerous repercussions, check out this infographic.
The following benefits are unique to Google Sheets:
The primary downfall of Google Sheets is that it doesn’t yet have the same amount of functionality as Excel. Additionally, Google Sheets can’t handle near the amount of data that Excel can (and will slow to a crawl if you try). Charting and graphing capabilities are extremely limited, which makes visual presenting difficult.
After reading the above, you might be wondering what you can use besides Excel to create a Balanced Scorecard. The two other options you have are to build your own software or scorecarding solution, or purchase it. As with anything else, there are benefits and drawbacks to each.
There are a lot of considerations that need to be examined if you’re considering building a scorecarding solution. You need to examine:
(All these important questions are answered in this in-depth article: Should You Build Or Buy Management Reporting Software?)
Purchasing software that can provide a positive ROI is a must—and achieving a great return on investment is an attainable goal. Also, keep in mind that there are certain things you should demand from your reporting software vendor, like excellent support and great customer service. All in all, software helps organizations that are more mature in their management processes.
There’s no shortage of software platforms available that can help you manage your scorecard. Many products are quite good, but it’s important to check out the reviews on G2, Capterra, and other software review sites to get a sense of each software product’s strengths and weaknesses. Here are some issues to be aware of as you shop around:
Many of our customers came to us after having used Excel as a starting point for their Balanced Scorecard management. As their organizations grew in size, spreadsheets became a less viable option for all the reasons we’ve listed above.
ClearPoint supports the Balanced Scorecard’s structure; it also allows for flexibility and promotes simplicity, giving larger organizations the freedom to focus on strategy without all the complications of Excel. One such organization is Velosio (formerly known as SBS Group), a longtime BSC user and ClearPoint customer that began its strategic planning efforts with spreadsheets.
A leading technology and software solutions provider, Velosio saw steady growth in the early 2000s. That prompted an expansion, transforming it from a single business unit into a multiple-unit company. It also had a unique three-tiered business model: a direct-to-end user business, a master reseller business, and a wholesale division. While the spreadsheets had worked passably with just one business unit and a handful of users, they were no longer a feasible solution for aligning four business units, four scorecards, and multiple users in a quarterly management process.
Before ClearPoint, Velosio tested several software solutions, none of which delivered everything the company wanted: a system through which it could construct a strategic plan, manage initiatives and measures, cascade them to the field level, and integrate with the existing accounting system. Cross-scorecard collaboration and transparency were also crucial; they wanted everyone to see where the company was headed and understand the reasoning behind big decisions.
ClearPoint could support all their needs. Once Velosio made the decision to switch, it constructed and populated its scorecards in ClearPoint in just three days, leading to the most successful strategic planning retreat ever.
Implementing ClearPoint eliminated all the data-gathering and reporting snafus associated with managing a Balanced Scorecard in Excel. It also made it possible to easily link initiatives and their component activities at the employee level. Some teams even began exploring the use of ClearPoint to manage smaller projects or construct team-specific scorecards.
ClearPoint also gave leaders the opportunity to reevaluate how they approach their strategy. Being able to see the links between initiatives and individual activities allowed them to more easily assess and prioritize their portfolio of projects. Additionally, working to set up their scorecards in ClearPoint prompted leaders to rethink their measures; those for which they had no data sources were scrapped and replaced with more appropriate choices.
Today, Velosio continues to use ClearPoint to manage its Balanced Scorecard—and follow through on its ambitious plans for continued growth.
Before you decide where you want to manage your scorecard, it’s important to understand the processes you’ll need to go through as an organization to create one.
If you want to learn more about what a good Balanced Scorecard should look like, take a look at this exhaustive Balanced Scorecard example. It’ll walk you through definitions for scorecarding shop talk and explain exactly how you can read a completed scorecard.