Own Your Data and the Conversations About Your Data

All of the Excel-based data management, data analysis and data reconciliation business processes we have been exposed to since we started xOverTime rely not only on the ability to manage datasets, but also the ability to communicate what is happening to the data. We envisage that each time data is shared with another user, xOverTime can enable a conversation and drive collaboration within an organization.

We would like to see users “own” their data by using all the Excel functionality that they are familiar with and “own” the conversations about their data by having conversation in context of the data. This is one of our core product goals here at xOverTime, helping users own their data and the conversations about their data. Since we started xOverTime, we have focused on how much productivity we can deliver with xOverTime, as I wrote about in an earlier blog post.

What really excites us is how users in many organizations rely on Excel as their default data analytics tool. Recent numbers from Microsoft suggest there are as many as 750m Excel users globally1. At xOverTime we are particularly interested in how these users interact with Excel to manage data in workbooks that grow over time. Daily production numbers, monthly sales numbers, and quarterly financials are good examples of data managed in Excel where the number of columns in the workbook grows with passing time. We believe that enterprise data like this can and should be managed in Excel with data management, data analysis and data reconciliation use cases supported with a cloud database.

At its core, xOverTime is a productivity collaboration tool that provides controlled data sharing, delivering data governance for unstructured spreadsheet data within organizations. We also want data to participate within an organization through improved collaboration. We put collaboration in context of the data. When a user shares daily production numbers, monthly sales numbers or quarterly financials with another user, xOverTime will start a conversation on the catalog of values shared. We shared in a recent blog post how exciting it is to see this feature start to take shape sitting in the interface between enterprise data and social media.

This vision of putting the user in context using collaboration is an effort to bridge a gap we see in many organizations. The gap exists in how data management, data analysis and data reconciliation business processes function today. Today users have to send an email about the data or a text message about anomalies. You might have multiple groups carrying on parallel discussion about the same data element that are not linked. These conversations should be tied to the data so that everyone can see the conversations and not have to go chase down different email or text chains.

At xOverTime we want to take the collaborative comments that users text message, instant message or email when working on data reconciliation activities and apply them to focused discussions in context of the data. There are opportunities to deliver value with this functionality across an organization with data from distributed systems. xOverTime provides a solution where business users are comfortable manipulating and working with the data, thus “own” their data. Looking at a sales example, month end data aggregated from POS systems suggests sales for a new product or SKU are not meeting an identified company target. When reviewing the data the management team comments on this gap against target, the production lead explains that parts are not available. This conversation leads the sales team to ask about delivery time and the buyer asks about the need for more time to buy more parts or select a new supplier. Instead of different email chains not viewable by all, with xOverTime, comments on the data exist in the context of the data itself and are viewable by all involved parties. Therefore, the organization can “own” the conversations about the data to drive business decisions.

The product vision for xOverTime is grounded in our experience of supporting real business users with real Excel-based business problems and the need to get work done within organizations. In the end, as Drucker remind us, “organizations exist to achieve things that folks can’t achieve on their own.”

At xOverTime, collaboration is a key part of our vision to empower users to work more effectively and collaboratively with Excel-based business processes. We can’t claim to have solved all of the collaboration challenges associated with helping all Excel users improve the management of important data in their workbooks. However, we are working hard to allow xOverTime to support better collaboration, knowing that each ounce of productivity is key to all of us working better together.

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1Spreadsheet tools to help everyone escape from the cell by Lisa Pollack, Financial Times, ft.com, 7/19/2016.

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