We ♥ spreadsheets

I work with lots of different clients, usually business analysts, and all very smart. I’ve observed that a lot of them manage their work using one or more spreadsheets. They know that to make business decisions in their daily work, flexible tools are needed to model complex business rules and perform calculations. Spreadsheets were made for this.

The spreadsheet approach works great for small teams. But as you scale-up to process a large number of rules or allow for multiple people to process similar tasks, increased risks emerge related to consistency, versioning, traceability, auditability, and plenty of other problems that are all rooted in the use of spreadsheets to manage business policies.

How does this happen? Business logic requirements are typically modeled using a spreadsheet during a requirements phase and then given to IT for development. This is where the process often breaks. Even the best analyst can inadvertently create ambiguity, logic gaps, or conflicting rules using a spreadsheet.

Once analysts think they have gathered all their requirements for a new product or policy update, they hand them over to their IT organization. IT then has to interpret and translate these requirements for implementation in the various systems they manage, on a schedule that works for IT.

Digital products, like insurance policies or mortgage products, need to be maintained and updated as market conditions, business policies and regulations change. Business analysts repeat the process of updating requirement documents that capture the changes that are needed and once again hand them off to IT for implementation – that’s when update cycle delays really slow things down.

Business changes typically occur faster than IT can make updates. The business can get trapped in a perpetual game of catch-up, waiting weeks or even months for product updates to be implemented as it becomes reliant on the limited bandwidth and schedule of IT resources.

A better way with decision automation

Rather than waiting for IT to find the time to develop code for new products and make updates, why not let the business make policy changes on its own? A better way to work would be to shift the management of policies and business logic to business analysts and product owners, the people who understand the business requirements best. Plus, the latest generation of no-code decision automation tools have leapfrogged ahead of spreadsheets when it comes to requirements gathering and improving the consistency and quality of requirements. These tools make it easy to develop and update products directly.

Designed specifically for business analysts and product owners, no-code decision automation tools enable business logic updates to be made easily and quickly with performant code generated automatically. IT can easily integrate the new code or interact with the logic as a service. This frees up IT to focus on other priorities since they no longer need to interpret and manage the implementation of business policy.

The same tools can be used to create, validate, and test new digital products immediately, also without having to wait for IT resources. Business friendly, spreadsheet-like qualities enable business analysts and product owners to complete a significant amount of product development without reliance on IT.

We have seen business analysts without any coding experience pick-up decision automation tools and create new products after just a few weeks of training. Product updates can be completed in a day. Decision automation enables business users to get more involved in implementing business policy changes using self-service capabilities. This transformation redefines the relationship of Business Analysis with IT.

Now is the time to overcome spreadsheet inertia and redefine the roles of business analysts and product owners by adopting decision automation tools. Drive immediate savings in productivity and faster time to market for new products with only minimal incremental training. It’s tough letting go, but your spreadsheet will understand.

Matthew Parker, Professional Services Director at Sapiens Decision, has over 10 years of experience as a client facing business analyst and nearly 7 years’ experience in decision modeling in a wide range of industries. He assists clients in improving processes, clarifying communication, and streamlining activities to optimize the way work gets done.