Derrick Wong (Managing Director)
Is it time to move out of spreadsheets?
It is true that spreadsheets are valuable instruments, and we frequently work with teams that are storing legacy data in spreadsheets or transitioning from Excel to another system. Spreadsheets have their place, but do they meet all your needs? Here are a few suggestions to consider.
Advantages of Using Spreadsheet
1) Low Cost - The overall cost of Excel or Google Sheets is very low or even free. If the budget is important, this is one of the biggest pros.
2) Highly Available/Familiar - Because spreadsheets are low cost, many people can access to spreadsheet tools. Sharing and distributing is easy with a low learning curve, via emails or shared folders.
3) Flexible - You can set up whatever you want in Excel. The same column can have numerical, text or date data, and it it will not impact your spreadsheet in any way.
Disadvantages of Using Spreadsheets
1) Easily Messed Up or Lost
We may spend hours crafting complex spreadsheet formulas, calculations and macros but when one well-meaning but ill-advised person makes a change and saves over your master sheet, what do you think will happen to your data? What if the information is deleted? How do you really lock down your data?
A Cloud based audit management platform like Onspring, can help you segregate administrator access to logic, calculations and deletion rights while providing a larger team different level of user access to input and view data.
On top of that, you also need to have audit history that allows you to view content changes and configuration changes over time. Also, a cloud-based tool can help you access your data from anywhere—no need to find that root path to the file or hope you don’t delete the shortcut or file on your desktop. That’s the kind of accountability and stability that Internal Audit team needs to build, in order to provide assurance to the organisation.
2) Version Control
When we save spreadsheets locally or in another folder, we have two, three or even dozens of copies of the document. How can we make sure we are using the latest and greatest version? What if a team member updates the incorrect version?
Using a centralised platform as your system of record can address these issues easily. Your team can update their mitigation plan, review the risk registers, add comments and more, all in one place. Do consider features like workflow and content security, you can take updates and modifications “offline” or remove archived content out of the regular user view. This eliminate all guesswork.
3) Limited Insight
Excel has some built-in reporting capabilities but only IF you follow its exact format. But what if you want to analyse across different data sets? What if you need to change how your report is built or the type of visualization? What if you need an easy calendar or a Gantt chart from your data?
A flexible real time reporting tool can help you build the reports you need with minimal learning curve. Tools like Onspring allow users to create reports using a drag-and-drop interface, which include data filters, multiple report visualizations and extensive data related to the report.
No misplaced files or the need to access data outside of your network or Sharepoint site can interrupt your connections between data sets. In addition, you can build reports and charts easily while still being able to export them as Excel or PDF or just print them in a nice, clean format.
It can easily be ranked as the number one cause of Excel pain. Even if you are capable of doing anything in an Excel spreadsheet, how can you enforce processes and consistency or allow reporting on similar data?
A process automation platform like Onspring can help you plan inputs and how data should be used together strategically. Rather than relying on complex Excel validation rules, you can prevent someone from entering a name for the date column or adding a new status outside of the specific range you wish to track. Data integrity rules can be enforced by requiring the users to enter the right values so you get complete data sets that are updated in real time.
Do you have a spreadsheet system that allows multiple stakeholders to contribute? Can they do so simultaneously? Although there may be a way to accomplish this, there must be multiple safeguards in place to prevent a change you don't want. Team members will not be able to contribute if they don't have access to what they need at the right time if this isn't in place.
Onspring allows you to customize the layouts for your various stakeholders so they see only the data they need and the fields they can edit. This provides a consistent experience without requiring one to lock down individual columns of a spreadsheet. The team can also use other features, such as messaging alerts, reports, dashboards, and automatic status tracking, to stay informed and focus on the pieces where their input is needed. This is all about efficiency.
Transitioning from Excel to a process automation platform may take a bit of time. It may also require some investment on the front end, but the benefits of improved accuracy, efficiency, and accessibility with outweigh the costs.
If your team is bogged down in spreadsheets and all the manual processes, it is time for you to explore better options. Have a chat with our team to understand how you can overcome the challenges of spreadsheets, and to improve the efficiency of your team.