Benefits and risks with spreadsheets: Erroneous inputs

Technology has advanced quickly within a short span of time, but some businesses can't seem to let go of spreadsheets. While using spreadsheets may seem outdated, they have evolved with user needs, becoming computer- and cloud-based functions that keep track of business metrics. The chart generation offered by many spreadsheet programs is also an effective tool that will help organizations improve their displays and make informed decisions. Although theoretically outmoded, spreadsheets continue to hold a significant role in the enterprise and developers must strive to incorporate emerging tools to simplify user applications.

Spreadsheets are appealing due to their ability to be easily leveraged by organizations of any size. Most programs also don't need highly specialized individuals to use the software, allowing the business to get the most out of their current resources. Wired contributor Peter Schroer suggested that static process models yield the need for Excel as a work-around to support user needs, however, using this approach in all cases can create data risks.

While there have been attempts to build enterprise software that will protect information and provide essential tools, the programs are often too inflexible for employees to use them effectively. To solve this issue, organizations need to have scalability, real-time capabilities and a lean code base that operates over a variety of mediums. This will ensure that companies have spreadsheets that will better meet enterprise requirements.

"The result is a software platform scalable enough to handle worldwide global queries from hundreds of thousands of concurrent users, flexible enough to handle ever changing data/process models, and able to adapt in real-time at the speed of business," Schroer wrote. "It's transparent and easy to use for end users, and it's got all the back-end controls corporate IT requires."

Using Excel more strategically
While there are some vulnerabilities that can appear from using Excel spreadsheets without proper protection, the technology is being used for asset management more often than before. However, according to WatersTechnology, erroneous inputs can yield inaccurate risk models, leading to incorrect decisions on major issues and resulting in significant losses. If a user adjusts formulas without going through the appropriate channels, they may overlook substantial calculation mistakes and contribute to lower business profitability. Although there are considerable threats when using spreadsheet programs, the technology can be beneficial in portfolio analysis and modeling.

If any element is entered incorrectly, it will throw off the entire spreadsheet and give stakeholders the wrong information to work from. To mitigate this, organizations will need to look at every metric to double-check its viability, effectively managing cross-asset risk.

"While it's human nature to expect bad things to affect only others, there have been sufficient technology advancements to make reexamining these strategies feasible, practical, and more importantly, necessary," according to WatersTechnology. "Firms are not required to undergo massive IT overhauls; rather, it's a desk-by-desk, portfolio-by-portfolio investigation that's required. And, if a catastrophic error does arise, how comforting will it be if all that's left in your company's cold, dead hand is an erroneous spreadsheet?"


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