Buckling under the weight of spreadsheets?


Spreadsheets are often critical to the successful operation of an organisation, yet they are un-controlled, not documented and sometimes wrong – in short a disaster waiting to happen

For decades, spreadsheets have been the mainstay of global business. Reaching into every nook and cranny of an organisation, they’ve been used as a platform for management information, operational control, forecasting and asset management. In fact, whatever it might be, someone will have developed a spreadsheet to do it.

The case for them is clear. They offer a cheap and accessible way for organisations to manage business, clients and operations. Without them, many businesses would be unable to function. Yet they are usually un-controlled, not documented and sometimes plain wrong – in short a disaster waiting to happen.

Organisations often don’t recognise that spreadsheets can be a problem. The IT department believes them to be a business issue, and the business think that they are IT’s responsibility. And those that do recognise the problem are put off by the scale of the task – and so choose to ignore it.

What to do?

It won’t comes as a surprise that the key to the safe and effective use of spreadsheets is good management. By and large the majority of spreadsheets in the organisation are inconsequential; they will not need any specific measures. But as an organisation you will still need to know where they are, and what they do.

It’s your business critical spreadsheets that present the most significant risk. Controls over your computer environment should equally apply to them. For example, they should:

  • be regularly backed up;
  • be kept in a secure location and password protected;
  • have inputs, processes and outputs that are adequately documented;
  • have checks and balances which ensure the completeness and accuracy of data; and
  • use version control to ensure that the most up to date version is easily identified.
How DataConsulting can help

We have significant experience in performing audits, interviews and mapping exercises to identify business critical spreadsheets.

We can then help you move these into the control environment, by designing governance controls, documenting applications, reviewing against big-four spreadsheet audit methodology and even re-performing key calculations.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 In: Hot Topics Comments (None)

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