By Gabriele Albarosa, CEO and Founder Krescendo
A computer virus spreads unseen, with people unknowingly infecting their colleagues as they send emails and do their daily work. Just like a medical virus, the most dangerous viruses don’t harm immediately. They spread and infect before the damage is noticeable.
We all take precautions against computer and medical viruses, the risks are well known. However, there is a similar insidious risk lurking inside every large organization – spreadsheet-based processes.
Data is the corporate lifeblood. Inaccurate, inconsistent, and unreliable data will make an organization ill.
Most data is managed in IT systems and seems safe. While IT carefully build and manage systems for all your core processes, there are always elements outside e.g.
- Travel approvals
- Project governance
- Strategic planning
Spreadsheets provide business professionals with a quick way to work with data outside of IT systems. There’s no waiting for budget approval, no complex coding, just fire up Excel and start building.
Initially, spreadsheets are great. They seem innocent. You see results instantly and can gradually add more and more as you go along. But just like a virus there are errors creeping in beneath the surface:
- Cut and paste errors
- Old copies of spreadsheets
- Formulae with mistakes
- Ranges missing data
“Most large spreadsheets have multiple errors” — Professor Panko, University of Hawaii
Diagnosing an Infection
Systems check data as it’s entered – it seems safe. But if you input a number calculated by a spreadsheet, the system cannot spot incorrect calculations.
In theory, spreadsheets should not be used for business processes. But the reality is that throughout every large organization spreadsheets extends far beyond individual use.
Does this affect you? Check your inbox for excel attachments. Even better, ask IT for a report on how many spreadsheets are being emailed every day.
If there are lots of spreadsheets being emailed around your organization, you know they are being used for business processes. And those spreadsheets, like a virus, are undermining the integrity of your data and the health of your business.