Spreadsheets are a great tool to store information and we have seen some excellent spreadsheets used by people in the death care industry that even included some cemetery mapping.
However, several problems can occur even with the best spreadsheets that are created and maintained by advanced users. Here are some of the things you need to think about when using spreadsheets to manage your cemetery or funeral home…
Spreadsheets offer no consistency in data, particularly with dates which can cause major issues with the accuracy and reliability of your cemetery and funeral home records:
If the dates end up being inconsistent, it is often difficult to determine what the date for the record actually is, as it could have been formatted as day-month-year, or month-day-year.
Although it is possible to link data and formulas from one spreadsheet or tab to the next, it is extremely complicated and time consuming to do so and there is a large margin for error. For example, if a new column or row is added, links may be broken or formulas may include the wrong cells and therefore not capture the right information. Even worse, the people who are using and maintaining the spreadsheets may not even realise how the spreadsheets were set up and linked so everyone believes that the information is accurate when it is not.
If you do not have advanced users of spreadsheets on your team to set up and maintain efficient linked-data spreadsheets, you are likely not using this time-saving functionality at all, which means data is being entered multiple times into multiple tabs and spreadsheets. During the data entry process, some tabs or spreadsheets may be missed or data can be entered incorrectly, ultimately resulting in a high probability that your cemetery or funeral home records are unreliable.
As you know, spreadsheets are limited in size. Since you keep your cemetery and funeral home records forever, you will need to create new spreadsheets from time to time once the previous spreadsheets reach their limit. Each new spreadsheet needs to be set up from scratch which requires expertise and can lead to errors and inconsistencies between record-keeping mechanisms. Over the years, you may change the format of the spreadsheets to better suit your business practices, so viewing records in older spreadsheets may be time consuming as you need to decipher how the data was entered (especially if it was created by staff that no longer work there). With multiple spreadsheets, searching for cemetery and funeral home records becomes very time consuming, especially if you do not know the exact date.
Even if you have an advanced user at your cemetery or funeral home that can create and maintain spreadsheets, they will not be working for you forever. You may not always have advanced users at your cemetery or funeral home, and even if you do, it will take time for a new user to learn what was done in the past, especially if the previous user leaves suddenly. Relying on an in-house expert may seem like a good idea at the moment, but it is not ideal for your long-term cemetery / funeral home records management strategy. It is better in the long-run to implement a simple cemetery / funeral home records management strategy that doesn't rely on the expertise of one in-house spreadsheet guru.
In cemetery and funeral home management, reporting capabilities on your cemetery and funeral home records is crucial to have visibility into what is happening in your business including sales and financial reporting, # of interments, alphabetical listing of deceased, # of sites within the cemetery, # of sites available and # of calls per year. Reporting capabilities are also important in order to comply with legislation, by providing accurate information to the government.
Spreadsheets do not have easy reporting capabilities built-in. Your in-house spreadsheet expert has to dedicate significant time to setting up reporting capabilities and, as mentioned above, shifts in the way the data is entered and maintained can impact your ability to deliver accurate reporting so that you have a complete view of how your cemetery or funeral home is running.Time Consuming to Keep Cemetery & Funeral Home Records Accurate and Easily Searchable
All of the problems described above take time to implement, maintain and fix. Also, searching for cemetery and funeral home records data becomes very time consuming. To resolve these issues and cut down on time invested in recording, maintaining and searching through your cemetery / funeral home records, it makes sense to explore alternatives to the spreadsheets you are currently relying on.
Using cemetery software can solve most of these problems. Fields are set up to enter data in the correct format, so that everything is entered consistently. All data is linked in a database, so all records only need to be entered once and you can easily find the cemetery records you are looking for. Support and training is available for set up and maintenance of cemetery software. Lastly, most cemetery software includes reporting where you can enter your criteria, and obtain the report you need at a push of a button.