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Wrong tools

One of the things that drives me nuts is the fact that I constantly see people struggle to use the wrong tools for a task. Often this is not because the right tool isn't available, but merely because they fall back to what they know. There are endless examples of this, but two really get under my skin.

PowerPoint for notes and memos

Top o' the list is Powerpoint for tracking meeting minutes, or to capture information from an interview.

My first experience with this was a long time ago, where our VP/GM defaulted to just using the corporate template to document the notes and minutes from whatever meetings he had.

The two issues with this are:

  1. The density of information is pretty low. As the slides were meant to be projected (it is a presentation software package after all) you can't put much on each page. Perhaps this person thought that was a benefit, forcing people to brevity as a virtue. Alas, this was not the case. A simple team meeting would spawn a presentation that was a half dozen pages. Or more.

  2. Instead of a simple text file (ascii formatted, plain text) that was very compact, it would be a minimum of 3 megabytes. Since at the time this happened, 20 gig hard drives were the norm, you would quickly use up your storage with these files.

Painful, yet at every job I have had in the last 12 years, this has been a common practice, instead of an outlier.

Excel as a database

As messed up and overkill as using PowerPoint is for meeting minutes, the one that absolutely slays me is seeing people use Excel as a database. Sure, if you are clever with macros and VBA, you can create some pretty cool applications in Excel that are quite usable and don't suck.

But not many people do this. Instead they use Excel to track projects, make gantt charts, manage resources, do project resource allocations, and to manage lengthy programs, making ever larger and larger spreadsheets.

Smart, tech savvy people who certainly have enough prowess to use Microsoft Project, or one of the modern SaaS tools for it, go right back to bashing it in Excel.

As I have recently had to dive into more than one mess, and unravel this, creating a couple of proper project tracking tools (one with Project, one was a nice use of OneNote), it really pains me to be party to this.

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Wrong tools
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