Excel Spreadsheet Development in the Third Sector: Case Study


  • The project helped a charity serve its customer base more efficiently
  • The project saved members of staff time and energy, and improved Excel skill
  • The project took place in Summer 2013 and lasted three months


Fiori Musical Logo


Fiori Musicali approached Tiger Spreadsheet Solutions in Summer 2013 for help with managing data in Excel spreadsheets. Fiori Musicali, a registered charity, are one of the principal providers of high quality professional classical concerts outside of the London area. The charity’s issues focussed on management of an important dataset containing details of those who have attended concerts.

Bernard Rapson, Treasurer of Fiori Musicali and the member of staff charged with dealing with data issues, picks up the story:


“Although we are a relatively small organisation, our issues were complex. Managing a database of 1000s of customers was becoming onerous. We had lots of data on previous concert attendees, but could not easily manipulate this data to target specific geographical areas. There was a growing sense of frustration. We investigated off-the-shelf software, but we were not convinced that it would suit our needs and investment would be costly. Tiger offered us a possible solution.”


Project Inception

Bernard’s enquiry via the Tiger Spreadsheet Solutions website started a dialogue about the charity’s needs. Chris Mortimer, leading the engagement on behalf of Tiger, explored the problem situation with Bernard. The two agreed to work together on a day-by-day basis which offered both parties flexibility. Chris travelled to the charity’s headquarters for the first in-person development session. Chris says:


“This is the kind of work that we relish. Exploring a business problem ‘live’ with the client, understanding root causes, and identifying improvement opportunities is a great challenge. Our conversations with clients suggest that that these exploratory sessions really help. Our service extends beyond merely fixing spreadsheets; we apply our experience with Excel to help clients view data and their business differently.”


Development Process

Issues were identified and prioritised, shaping a project plan which was executed over the subsequent weeks. The plan included a second in-person development session at the Tiger offices in Nottingham. This session focused on a particular issue: the generation of targeted customer lists for marketing purposes. This dataset presented the typical complications, including duplicated names and inconsistent capitalisation; Chris worked with Bernard to implement formulae and visual basic coding to resolve these issues. Bernard comments:


“As a fairly experienced Excel user, it was beneficial to be able to sit alongside the developer and understand the changes made. I found Chris to be a good trainer. I was able to pick up several new techniques, and the experience broadened my appreciation of how Excel spreadsheets can help businesses.”


Project Results

The project continued in a cyclical manner: exploration, development, testing. This approach meant that communication between user and developer was consistent and effective, leading to a solution closely aligned to the needs of the charity. The improved spreadsheets have accelerated the process of separating out target audiences, and has helped Fiori Musicali to serve their customer base more effectively. Bernard remarks:


“I would recommend an Excel spreadsheet development project with Tiger. The project has helped is deal with a number of nagging data issues, avoid investment in costly software, and we are now able to handle box office data more efficiently. Tiger are also great fun to work with.”


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