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  • Annand Sharma

Tech Recipe: Elevating Your Business with Modern Spreadsheets🖥️📊

Background:

Spreadsheets have been around since 1979. As the world becomes increasingly digital, the amount of data we have access to has only skyrocketed. Microsoft has been steadily adding new features and functionality to Excel. In 2006 Google introduced real time collaboration for spreadsheets in the browser. Let’s be honest, most of these changes are to the interface. The spreadsheet is the swiss army knife business tool. As your needs grow and change, you need to use better tools for the job.



And we get it. Change is hard. It’s uncomfortable. New processes means new training, more chances for mistakes, more cost. That’s where a tool like AirTable comes in. AirTable offers a flexible, user-friendly platform that combines the simplicity of a spreadsheet with the complexity of a database. You can get very powerful data management tools while still interacting with the grid we’ve all become used to. 


In this recipe we’ll discuss how we are moving from a Google Sheet to AirTable and we’ll explore other reasons you could transition from traditional spreadsheet tools to AirTable.


Some features of AirTable that the old spreadsheets can’t do:

1. Dynamic Data Management:

  • AirTable acts as both a spreadsheet and a database, offering more structured data management and more options for defining relationships between data.

   

2. Customizable Views:

  • Different team members can create views that suit their specific needs, such as Kanban boards, calendars, galleries, or forms, without altering the underlying data.

   

3. Automation and Integration:

  • AirTable offers robust APIs allowing you to integrate other apps and services into your database.

  • AirTable has some built in automations or you can use these APIs to build custom automations. 


What we are doing with AirTable:


We maintain a patient waiting list in a Google Sheet. The spreadsheet is a great starting point to understand how to build a good waiting list. We have columns for data that enables our staff to take action someone on the waiting list:



This screenshot is just a portion of that data. We saw an opportunity to use a better tool because we found that:

  • Typos and misspellings are common - sometimes a phone number digit is missing 

  • The patient may have insurance (“ins” column) we don’t accept

  • We could not easily track what care areas were most in demand (“reason for visit” column)


AirTable has built in features that solve these issues for us. Doing a column to column comparison, a few key areas stand out:

  • Customizable data validation - we can set a phone number field and if we don’t have a 10 digit phone number, it won’t save the record. Staff know in real time that they should ask the patient for their number again.

  • Customizable data validation - we can build a list of insurance we accept and only allow those values in the field. If the patient lists an insurance we don’t have, it won’t come up in the form. We can politely inform the patient we don’t accept their insurance. This also prevents typos and misspellings as the correct option will auto populate.



  • Customizable views - we can still have staff submit this waitlist requests for insurance we don’t accept. We can send it to another table where we track requests from patients with insurance we don’t have. This way management has data on areas for expansion.

  • Structured data - we can dynamically build a list of reasons patients want to visit. Each reason is atomic and each patient can have many reasons. This structured data allows us to build reports both in AirTable and export these reports to our BI tool. We can offer management a clearer picture of what patient demand looks like.


Other examples of what to try with AirTable:


1. Project Management:

  • Challenge: Managing projects in Excel can be static and cumbersome.

  • AirTable Solution: Use built in Kanban views for a dynamic project management experience, tracking tasks through different stages with ease.


2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM):

  • Challenge: Excel struggles with linking related customer interactions and data effectively. A full blown CRM is expensive and you aren’t sure you need one yet.

  • AirTable Solution: Create linked tables for customers, interactions, and sales, providing a 360-degree view of customer relationships.


3. Event Planning:

  • Challenge: Coordinating vendors, venues, and schedules in a spreadsheet can get confusing.

  • AirTable Solution: Utilize calendar views for scheduling, gallery views for vendor comparisons, and forms to collect RSVPs or preferences. Invite the respective vendors to collaborate in their spaces.


4. Inventory Management:

  • Challenge: Difficulty in tracking inventory levels, orders, and supplier info in a spreadsheet.

  • AirTable Solution: Use AirTable’s linked records to connect inventory, orders, and suppliers. Set up automated alerts for low stock levels.


5. Content Calendar:

  • Challenge: You write a weekly newsletter and want to keep track of what has been done and what is coming up.

  • AirTable Solution: Use AirTable's calendar view to plan and visualize your content strategy. Integrate with social media tools for automated posting.


Frankly you can get started with just your standard spreadsheet in AirTable. Their UI is designed to help you uncover more advanced features along the way.

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