Be it for customer lists, product lists, or service requests, almost all businesses use Excel for tracking something. Along with spreadsheet forms, you will also find a person maintaining that process. In some rare cases where an operation is to be maintained by one person, Excel works beautifully. But more often than not, there are multiple people involved and the data will need to be updated frequently. This type of processes can quickly become an ordeal as different departments or levels of management might be required to fill out different sections of such forms, to incorporate an approval mechanism.

One possible solution is licensing a tracking software and integrating it with a preferable platform. But these type of tools are usually very specific to certain business operations and are not one-size-fits-all.

Another way is to hire a team of programmers and build an application tailored to specific business needs. As this will typically require a sizable budget and long time, most businesses rather stick with old school methods and keep everything in Excel.

There is an alternative approach that utilize those existing spreadsheets by transforming them into web applications. Through SpreadsheetWEB’s built-in account and workflow controls, an Excel spreadsheet can easily become an automated and collaborative platform.

Let’s take the example of a property management company tracking their work orders. In this application, work orders are initiated by property managers, and are then sent to others for approval. Traditionally, collaboration in this type of applications is done by passing around papers and getting signatures from key people. Someone would be maintaining a list of all work orders based on this paper based process to track everything.

Our work order form was created in Excel. It captures costs associated with the task, vendor information, and other details regarding the operation.workflow1In this particular workflow, when a work order is created it needs to be then signed off by four levels of managers to proceed with the task. Our four types of users are; property manager (Jane Doe), regional manager (James Smith), director (Mike Donovan), and VP of finance (Larry Sand).

Publishing this workbook as a web application using SpreadsheetWEB, we get the same look and feel of the original workbook. Implementing a workflow structure through this application is done in a few easy steps using the conversion wizard.

When a work order form is first created, it will be saved in the database as a new record. All saved records can be accessed by the admin users and the management.workflow2In this example, we’ve also added email notifications to let the next user know that a work order has been created or approved by the manager preceding them in the workflow. First, only our property manager, Jane Doe, receives an email requesting her approval for a new work order. Her name and the date is automatically printed in respective fields on the form for convenience. When she reviews the record and confirms its integrity, she can then press the Save button and automatically pass it to the next person in line, our regional manager. James Smith receives an email with a direct link to this particular record which was signed off by Jane.workflow3Clicking the URL, James Smith is directed to the login page. He can access the latest version of this work order and when he signs in.workflow4Once he gives the green light, the application automatically sends an email to the director. After his approval, the VP of finance will have the final say.

The entire process is triggered by automatic notifications and users don’t waste their times sending this form around and tracking its progress by creating an unnecessary email traffic, as all actions take place instantly in a collaborative cloud environment.

You might think that the user traffic and verification can quickly become overwhelming. To prevent this flow of data from getting out of hand, admin users can use the “History” page to track all edits made to each form.workflow5With the unprecedented flexibility of Microsoft Excel as a tool to build logic systems, a work order application created with SpreadsheetWEB can potentially move on to the next person, if the next person in line is taking time off. Another feature that can be added is a threshold for certain users. We might need to make sure the higher management only sees orders above a certain cost, and integrate a logic to comply with this structure.

As the number of work orders in the system increase, it’s certainly going to get harder to keep track of the tasks, how they are processed, and what aspects of our company can be improved. Analyzing the response times and evaluating what types of work orders need more attention are the key to improve this workflow. Platform bottlenecks can be identified using SpreadsheetWEB’s dashboard tools.workflow6Through its built-in tools and simple interface, SpreadsheetWEB offers an all-in-one solution to data automation. With extensive control over data, users, and model logic, SpreadsheetWEB can transform a simple data collection spreadsheet into an A to Z collaboration tool.