Part 1: Change, Remote Collaboration & COVID-19

August 8, 2020

Even if you have not gotten sick, we have all been significantly touched by this pandemic, so much so that it is likened to wartime. Here are my thoughts on how this affected the entire U.S. economy and how individuals and business’ can take steps to mitigate losses in the future, if ever, something like this happens again.

By Roh Krishnan (Product Strategy at BoardwalkTech)

Part one will discuss the inevitability of change and the seemingly “basic” operation of working remotely, within the enterprise.

But first, let me extend my sincerest condolences to everyone and provide morsels of hope, on behalf of Boardwalktech, as we are here to help, in any way we can. We will do our best to offer a helping hand to the 16M U.S. citizens and counting, who have officially filed for unemployment and we extend our sincerest sympathies to the victims and families of the approximately 22,000 people (and counting) who have lost their lives in the United States to this dreaded pandemic. With another 1.9M people officially diagnosed worldwide, it is hard for all of us, including the medical community, to wrap their minds around such a virus.

When you take into account the number of people that are carrying it and don’t know plus the people who have it but haven’t received testing, it all adds up to something very ominous.

Yet, I’ve always tried to find the silver linings in life, so despite the devastation to our people, our healthcare system, and our economy, as a nation, this may be the one thing the entire United States has had in common since WWII. We are in this together, and the only time one can be brave is when one is scared.

In moments like these, I think of situations like the heroic rescue of British troops stranded in Dunkirk, by civilians, just like you and I, or more recently, the 9/11, where our first responders and civilians alike came together to show the world that we, as a democracy with a free economy can recover from anything.

Instances such as these are powerful catalysts and can be mobilized for good and bad.

If mobilized for good, we have the opportunity to change the world forever.

Often it is during chaotic times like these where new solutions emerge because suddenly peoples hands are forced. Peoples minds are heightened to figure out anything they can do to help the cause.

The cause of bringing the United States, and the entire world back to normal.

Biotech companies are working nearly 24/7 and many companies, from small companies to stalwart companies are all taking a hard look at what the future holds for them.

What will the world after COVID-19 look like?

Credit card giant Visa Inc. joined a company called Fold to enable the offering of a card that earns rewards denominated in cryptocurrency instead of traditional airline miles or cash. (Bloomberg)

A bold move I would say, for a company like Visa, who for a long time would never have considered a cryptocurrency. Yet here we all are.

The point is, times like these make people look at problems or issues that may have existed for years prior. These items, at the time, might not have caused too much trouble to the ‘all mighty bottom line’.

So when companies like Visa are thinking outside the box, it sends me the signal that many other companies are too, and in my humble opinion, that is a really good thing.

Still, all of this is a moot point, if some of us didn't have the luxury to work, eat and enjoy life from home so I’d like to salute the men and women who are risking their health and safety to go out and do the jobs that put them in harm’s way, and despite all of it, this is the moment of my generation where we all need to dig deep and help one another, however that help may manifest itself.

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Teamwork makes the dream work. Photo by Michael Luo.

We got through the Civil War, the Great Depression, WWII, 9/11 and I would argue that each event made us stronger as a nation, and I’m confident and hopeful that we will emerge from this crisis stronger still.

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Working in Isolation

Truth be told, I enjoyed working from home for about a week after the quarantine was announced.

Since then, 22,000 thousand U.S. citizens and counting, have reportedly died from the virus, with an additional 1.9M globally, affected in some way, directly by COVID-19.

I’ve also now learned that at least 4 of my close friends have lost their jobs, or been furloughed. I am lucky to have mine, so it’s evident to me that I must work harder than I ever did before to help the company I work for.

From everything I’ve read, the light at the end of the tunnel is very dim, to say the least.

It falls upon us to make the light at the end of the tunnel glisten with hope.

The time in isolation has also allowed me the opportunity to read and think deeply about a number of different things, from dusting off old books to pondering company strategy to re-evaluating my own self-care.

Working in isolation can be very tough, especially for people like me. As an unapologetic socialite, I miss going to the office and grabbing lunch with my colleagues. I miss the brainstorming sessions. I miss grabbing a dry erase pen and marking up the whiteboard with ideas.

How can one replicate this at home? Well, first and foremost, we do our best, and luckily there are companies out there that allow us to meet and chat remotely. It’s not the same but it’s close.

My role at Boardwalktech is to provide strategy, but it is really those that operate a company, through spreadsheets and emails who are facing an uphill climb. Sales, finance, HR & payroll, project management, inventory management, and more, all rely on the robust and reliable traits of Excel.

All of whom carefully and closely monitor their exquisitely formatted excel spreadsheets while collaborating with their team, which is now remote.

It is challenging, but it is also what Boardwalktech does best!

We do not create the vaccines needed to keep you healthy, but we provide the technology to healthcare companies that do.

We recently came out with a product called DiamondLane.

In truth, we’ve always had this product, going all the back to the creation of the company, started by founder Ravi Krishnan, who had the vision to change the previously accepted principles of data management.

You can download it here.

Excellerate your spreadsheets, switch over the fast lane. Time is money.


Since then, we’ve been issuing the product to the likes of Heineken, Coke, and 27+ fortune 500 companies, and now we’d like to issue free downloads of Diamondlane to everyone so that we can do our part in helping business’, and therefore the people that work there.

A crisis like this made us reevaluate our pitch. We realized this could be a fundamental operational tool that anyone who uses Excel in a team can use, from entrepreneurs to founders to scrum masters to stock traders to someone that wants to plan a project and calculate revenue.

My background is computer science, with a minor in journalism, so when I first saw the capability of Boardwalktech’s excel collaboration tool, I was amazed. I had never seen a database that was so seemingly intuitive because it shared many of the ‘code’ management characteristics that I was already used to.

I would often tell my friends in the Computer Science world that this is the GitHub for the enterprise spreadsheets.

Just like collaborating as a sales team in Excel, programmers in a team use an environment to write their code and then plug it into GitHub so they can all work together. GitHub, and the original version of Diamondlane, simply called Boardwalk, both adhere to similar key principles of data management.

The difference is; one is managing data in excel, and the other is managing code in a coding environment. At the end of the day, both data and code are information. And if you dive even deeper, they are all just a collection of 1’s and 0’s. A computer only understands 1’s and 0’s, so in a perfect world, data management principles should be taken from those that manage data at its peak. Your entire computer or mobile device works beautifully because the data is managed the way it should be. Of course, there are nuances, but the principle pillars never waiver.

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Jumping into the deep end

This week and last, since we are all working remotely, our SVP & COO set up numerous classes per week, and in this class, he showed us a world without Boardwalk’s Diamondlane or even Sharepoint for that matter.

He had us create mock sales teams, update excel sheets, send them to a team leader, combine the excel sheets, and then send certain sheets to our mock regional managers.

It was excruciating. I called it cruel and unusual punishment, and this was just for an hour. Imagine if you had to do it each day for 8 hours? In total, I counted roughly 100 steps from the first entry to completion.

It doesn't need to be this way. I know what you may be thinking; what about Google Suite or SharePoint?

Sheets and Sharepoint both lack key fundamental features that allow for seamless multi-party excel collaboration. Together, they both lack changelogs (to see what has been changed, and what hasn’t). There is no branching and merging. Arguably the two most important pieces that allow for proper collaboration, while taking advantage of the fundamental rules of version control.

If you don’t have version control built-in, then users, especially in larger teams are bound to override other peoples input, or worse, they may be beholden to a SQL database, that a few engineers have built, for which you have to write endless queries as well as have a constant flow of communication between sales and software, that can often get testy.

Furthermore, Sharepoint, Sheets and SQL do not provide updates when someone has made a change, so if you go on vacation for a week, you would have to literally reverse engineer everything to see what had changed while you were gone.

Finally, and this issue is pretty obvious, but SharePoint, Sheets, SQL and standalone excel require intensive manual entries, which will inevitably end in manual errors, and if that error is big enough to jeopardize the company, then your job may very well be at risk. And with no revision history or changelog, there is no way to revert to the previous state, to save yourself and the company’s potentially vital spreadsheet.

This is in addition to the endless back and forth of emails, creating long email threads where one is bound to get lost. As mentioned before, it’s cruel and unusual punishment, and frankly unnecessary in 2020.

So, ladies and gentleman, now that we have the time to begin making changes to create a better environment, why not give DiamondLane a try?

I love examples so think about this one:

Suppose you have a thought, and this thought might be special, but you want to flesh out the details before showing the entire team. After all, in business, or in general conversation, there is nothing more confusing than 40% of a thought. Neither Google or Sharepoint allows for the maneuver of privacy, however intuitive and shiny it may seem. Everything you enter is being seen by all your peers. You might be better off with a notebook and pen. You would have time to flesh your thoughts, and then when you are ready, update your changes.

During our sales exercise, that we’ve been holding during the quarantine, we first tried to operate, as the average salesperson would work, without Sharepoint, Sheets, or Diamond Lane. It was here that I counted an unimaginable amount of unnecessary steps while one is working within a team of 4, with 2 managers in two separate regions. Extrapolate that to 20 regions, and you can see why so many companies have taken the time to understand and implement Diamond Lane.

There are far too many friction points leading to manual entries which lead to manual error.

The lack of changelogs and updates make it so you have no understanding of what happened in the past, let alone the future. If you want predictive analytics, one needs to be able to learn from the past and extrapolate that knowledge into the future. The lack of basic merging and branching capabilities only adds to the entire problem.

(I added the links above if you want to learn more about what branching and merging means in a business context).

If you’re interested in giving DiamondLane a try, feel free to email me at roh.krishnan@boardwalktech.com, or simply go to the website and download a copy for yourself.

Stay safe friends, from everyone here at BoardwalkTech, and remember to ping us if you have any questions at all.

Because of our current situation, we are happy to announce that we will be issuing free copies of DiamondLane to help in this crisis of ours.

You can download a free version of Diamond Lane for your company today at the Diamond Lane landing page.

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DiamondLane powered by BoardwalkTech

In the meantime, I will be drafting up Part 2, where we will talk about the global supply chain, Boardwalktech’s digital ledger, and how we can all do our part to mitigate damage, now and in the future.

Till next time,

Roh Krishnan | roh.krishnan@boardwalktech.com |@SavileRoh

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