Last week I talked about spreadsheets and how woefully inadequate they are for property management. I’ve actually come across large organizations that are managed by spreadsheet, and I have to say it’s like stepping back in time. The 1983 movie title “Risky Business” comes to mind. The first problem such companies face is the challenge of correct data entry, with the greatest impediment being an inability to fully incorporate auto ID.
First, however, let’s imagine a world in which you can walk up to an item with a mobile computer, scan it, update pedigree information and seamlessly flow that data back to an original system of record that supports the entire enterprise. With spreadsheets, this elegant process becomes an impossible task.
Scanning of linear bar codes into a spreadsheet runs a huge risk of capturing data into the wrong cell or of having the spreadsheet try to interpret the data string into a formatted cell. This results in low quality and error-prone data. Scanning a UID barcode becomes infinitely more challenging because of the particular formatting and interpretation required by an “intelligent” scanner, one that can handle and output the UII. Even if specialized scanners properly interpret the UID data string, the cell formatting issue above will persist, creating additional risk to the data entry.
Another risky aspect of spreadsheet use for data capture is the lack of business rules for capturing item pedigree. Spreadsheets do not manage data entry rules well. One might ask, for example, when an enterprise ID or CAGE code is being captured into a spreadsheet, whether the CAGE data entry rules are being followed to the exact number or alpha-numeric, and in the correct order. Additional, specialized programming would be required to enable a spreadsheet for this level of control, and remember the rules are constantly changing.
Lack of data entry controls and the inability to leverage auto ID (i.e. barcode and UID scanning and data capture) are two key reasons for moving beyond the spreadsheet. Precise property management simply cannot happen otherwise.