Eight Pain Points from Using Spreadsheets to Track Issues

Mar 7, 2017 9:25:10 AM / by Heather Lancaster

You’re sitting in a staff meeting and have to report to upper management about the items your team is working on. You have a stack of paper, a printout of a spreadsheet, or notes scribbled from your email. One of your team members is on vacation, and another called in sick this morning.  

Do you know when your information was last updated? Are items time-stamped by who last did what? What else might your team be working on that just came up and maybe you hadn’t been briefed yet.

If you’re like most managers, you have enough work of your own to do without micromanaging your team. However, you need to stay in the loop enough to report on everyone’s projects and issues. You’ve been using spreadsheets to capture the most basic details, but it’s not the best solution.

Spreadsheets are static, but your issues aren’t.

Issues are fluid as they move towards final resolution, and at any point during this process you need to see an accurate snapshot of what’s going on. Such is the nature of tracking your issues. Whether you’re managing a help desk, a customer support staff, or other service desk, there is nothing static related to your issues.

Tracking your issues with spreadsheets has an inherent set of pain points that prove frustrating, most of which are compounded by the static nature of spreadsheets. Here are a list of common complaints that our team hears:

  • Reporting is time consuming

Depending on the nature of your business, there are a wide range of reports that you need to have on your issues. This could involve the number of issues submitted within a time frame or resolved in a time frame. It could be workload balance across the team or the need to determine trends. Pulling this data from a spreadsheet requires manually manipulating the data or building and updating challenging formulas, often at various repeated intervals such as daily, weekly, or monthly.

  • No tracking of email correspondence

How many of your issues are reported by email? Perhaps this goes to a distribution list across your team. When someone replies to the issue, or has back and forth communication with your submitter, how is that captured to the issue? Many users will copy and paste the last email into a field in the spreadsheet. Or copy the entire string into the cell. Even with wrapping the text, or extending the length of the cell, the view becomes unwieldy at best.

  • Difficulty when multiple users need to make updates

Unless you work alone, there are times when you need your staff to get into the spreadsheet and make updates. Advancements in shared documents like Google Sheets help, but if you have multiple staff members that are adding and changing information, the management can get cumbersome. Especially concerning is when two people are working on the same issue and one person overwrites data entered by another. How do you know which is the most recent?

  • No attachment storage

If you’re working in a help desk, or dealing with customer support or complaint management, oftentimes you will have screenshots, pictures or other attachments to support the issue. Spreadsheets give you no place to store those attachments. You wind up keeping them either in email, where they’re more difficult to share, or in a network drive, but then you’re dealing with labeling them in such a way to easily identify them.

  • No audit trail

Who changed that value? When did it get updated? Spreadsheets record the latest and greatest, but unless you put the old information in a different field, it’s hard to know when items were changed. With multiple users accessing the spreadsheet, there’s no set audit trail that lets you do research when something goes wrong.

  • No time stamping

Anytime you update a value or add in a new issue, there’s no automatic timestamp that populates. Sure, you can manually add dates, but like most manually adjusted data, it’s easy to mistype or change. If you’re copy and pasting emails, unless you get the header information, there’s no way to tell when something comes in or was replied to.

  • No alerts when issues are assigned

A new issue comes in and you or another team member logs it in the spreadsheet, but assigns it to someone else. How do they know they have a new issue? If they sit near you, you might just tell them. Or send them a quick email, or instant message, or text, or even a phone call. Different kinds of issues and different circumstances mean any or all of those methods may get utilized. However, with no consistency, things invariably fall through the cracks.

  • No notifications when updates occur

When your customer or end user sends you their issue, you want to acknowledge it in some way. You might even have auto-responders on your email, or called responses that your team manually sends out when they put the issue into the spreadsheet. However, when your team works towards the resolution of the issue, are they notifying the submitter along the way? Picking up the phone and giving them updates? Unless it’s your company CEO or your number one customer, the answer is not likely. Maybe you’re sending them an email on the resolution, but other than manually sending emails or making calls, there’s no automatic notification for your submitters.

There has to be better way, right? There is - it’s issue tracking software like Issuetrak that’s designed to help you work smarter, not harder. Read more details about how Issuetrak solves these pain points.

If any of these pain points resonate with you and you’re ready to move beyond the static nature of spreadsheets, see how Issuetrak can work for you and talk to one of our product experts today!

Topics: Issue Tracking, Customer Support, Help Desk, Updates

Heather Lancaster

Written by Heather Lancaster