How to collaborate more efficiently using online spreadsheet tools?

By | February 25, 2014

What is Collaboration?

Collaboration is core part of any group or organization. This is the reason why every day from almost everyone in any team, we hear that ‘we need better collaboration’. This phrase is hard to deny in any corporate setting. And this is the reason why it is not just a buzzword but is a survival backbone for any business.

Collaboration Team Work


Why is it tough to collaborate?

Getting any work done which involves a set of people, organizations, multiple locations and a lot of processes which require everyone to be on same page, speak the same language and understand the business in same manner. But the world see them individually, which creates confusions. Collaboration in such condition leads to rework and inefficiencies. Teams are going global while workplace is getting virtual. Taking the simple example of spreadsheets and data collection through them, while collating the collected data from the team at the same time is getting harder and confusing at the same time

How tools are helping in making collaboration easy?

A lot of collaboration tools have been trying to solve the issue of collaboration considering it to be a social activity. Let’s take the example use case of developers working on same code base. They use collaboration tools like Git, TFS, VSS, etc. to keep themselves synced with each other on the same code base updates. If we take the example of email, it has been the longest living collaboration tool for almost all professionals, but does it solve the problem of collation and collection? Partially not, because it is not a specific tool for collation, it is specific tool for communication. In last few years, we have seen many online collaboration and collation tools, like Google Docs, Zoho Docs, Office 365, CollateBox, EditGrid, etc. They are trying to solve the use case of spreadsheet data collection and collation through online apps. Many of these apps are SaaS (Software as a Service) applications which anyone can use for personal or organizational collaboration needs by paying a small fees based on usage and user numbers.

Online Spreadsheet Data Collaboration

The gap between online and offline is closing more each day, and working with your spreadsheets in a collaborative atmosphere is one of the reason to try an online spreadsheet editing tool. Let’s take an example of recruitment list of growing data. Almost all small organizations create a spreadsheet with relevant columns and share that with interviewers to fill in the required details. However, there are certain columns and rows which need not be shared/viewed/edited with each interviewer. At the same time, create copies of the same spreadsheet for each interviewer after filtering, hiding columns and sorting the data is a cumbersome task. Which again becomes more confusing when one has to collect and merge the data through these different spreadsheet of same nature. This is the place where online spreadsheet document applications like Google Docs, Zoho Docs and CollateBox comes into picture. These applications let you share different views of the same spreadsheet online after applying relevant filters with your team or users and collect the data. Google, Zoho and Office 365 are actually complete office suites which do way much more than what is required or can be done online. At the same time, CollateBox goes beyond just collecting data and provides collated data which updates the master sheet and provides analysis on that data without emailing multiple copies of the same spreadsheet. This way they are specific and targeted to a particular segment of spreadsheets. It provides a consistently safe and secure user-friendly platform to collect and collate data and one can even set notifications as per need for specific data changes.

We have also done some analysis on other such online spreadsheet collaboration tools like Google Docs and Zoho Docs. Most of the users were happy with them with general usage of data collection but there were few drawbacks of these tools they found related to collation and inconsistency of filters and column settings. One of the team who is using Google Docs is frustrated by the disappearance of columns many times. Other team found that there is no inbuilt data validation put in to check the consistency of data while using Google Docs and Zoho Docs which make them error prone while collecting data. CollateBox users found these features out of the box along with provision to setup notifications but some of them are asking for more features like formulas and calculated fields in CollateBox.

In the era of big data, cloud computing and collaboration, tools which provides intuitive user-friendly user experience and a platform which suits needs of most of the businesses through a collaborative approach will change the game of current online collaboration tools.