Business Management

6 Tips to Better Manage Your Company’s Spreadsheet Risk



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Graham Machray, Product Marketing Manager, ClusterSeven

Spreadsheets have long been an essential element of business, providing a powerful and adaptable toolset that helps big and small companies alike manage and review critical sets of data. Supporting businesses in their day-to-day processes and project management, spreadsheets are essential in helping companies to carry out efficient and effective data analysis, as well as the management of the business.

This great flexibility and ease of use means that businesses have become reliant on spreadsheets for things like budgeting and revenue calculations, for example. Because of this dependence, it’s vital that businesses take appropriate measures to ensure that they avoid spreadsheet risk.

Spreadsheet risk is the effect on a business caused by undetected mistakes, errors and omissions in key spreadsheets that a company depends on. Given that this can directly impact revenue and profit, businesses can’t afford to get this wrong.

Spreadsheet risk can occur in a number of ways. The most common causes are where there several versions of a key spreadsheet in use across a company, or when spreadsheets use advanced formulas to calculate results. Having spreadsheets use data from another spreadsheet or business system to compute results, is a common cause too.

Here, we’re going to go through 6 tips you can use to help you manage your company’s spreadsheet risk.

  1. Evaluate – To fully establish the potential impact of spreadsheet risk on your business, begin by assessing what spreadsheets are most critical to your business and what the result would be if there was a problem with any of them.
  2. Be consistent – Ensure you are consistent in the formulas that you use as this will make identifying any issues easier later on. Whilst formulas can save a lot of time and trouble, it’s also important to stick to the basics to prevent issues down the line, so avoid hard-coding results for example.
  3. User testing – To better understand how a spreadsheet will be utilised by people, it can help to get someone to actually using them to test your new spreadsheet and get feedback. Doing so will help identify things that might otherwise slip through the cracks.
  4. Use one version of key spreadsheets – As we mentioned above, having multiple versions of a spreadsheet is one of the most common causes of spreadsheet risk. Avoid this by scrapping spreadsheets when they are out of date, this will save you a lot of trouble long-term.
  5. Lock vital cells – It might sound simple, but always ensure that you lock cells you do not want changed. It’s simple enough to accidentally replace cells, but locking them will ensure that cells aren’t inadvertently amended.
  6. Back up – Finally, you should regularly back up your company’s most important spreadsheets. This will ensure simpler business data recovery and reduce potential risk in the long-term.

Spreadsheets have become a central element of running a business, serving as a powerful tool in helping companies analyse and assess data, as well as manage their operations. Yet, given the vast impact that one error can have on a company’s revenue, managing spreadsheet risk effectively should be an essential element of any business plan. If appropriately handled to begin with, companies can continue to focus on building the business, rather than amending avoidable problems.

About the Author:

Graham Machray is a Product Marketing Manager at ClusterSeven with extensive experience in helping customers and software vendors understand and address complex technology and business issues in the IT and Financial Services Industry.