Project Management, Resource Management

Common Spreadsheet Problems (and How They Affect Business)

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Spreadsheets, both physical and digital, have long been an integral part of business processes. Today, programs like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are used by companies across every industry around the world for resource management, project management, accounting, and much much more. In fact, spreadsheets have become so prevalent many businesses are using them in place of point solutions that can perform certain functions much better.

Overuse of spreadsheets can cause many avoidable complications within your business, but you may be missing the clues.

Here are the 10 signs your business might have a spreadsheet problem.

1. Frequent Breaking - Spreadsheets are dependent on people entering the correct equations and which leaves businesses vulnerable to human error. As these spreadsheets become more complex through long-term use, it can be easy for their equations and data to break as a result of simple mistakes. This can lead to invalid data and time spent trying to pinpoint and fix the error.

2. Conflicting Versions - Using spreadsheets for business processes often leads to version control challenges. When the business doesn’t keep track of and determine which version should be used for all data entry, multiple conflicting versions with different data sets can be created. The confusion can cause serious issues when these conflicting versions are used for business decisions.

3. Spreadsheet Lockout - Some spreadsheet programs only allow one user to edit at a time. While this is designed to prevent conflicting simultaneous edits, it can eat into a large portion of your resources’ time as they wait for access to the information they need for work. This becomes even more common when the same document is used by a large group of people.

4. Massive File Size - Autosaves and updates can quickly balloon the file size of a spreadsheet, especially those that are commonly used and edited. Keeping old versions on file can help in the event of errors and the need for backups, but this will rapidly expand file sizes. A large volume of spreadsheets means that a company’s network can be strained and slowed down by a backlog of documents.

5. Data Validation Issues - Data entry can easily result in spreadsheet errors and requires consistent validation to prevent inaccurate insights that can go unknown for long periods of time. However, simple mistakes, like transposing numbers accidentally or using different naming conventions for the same subject, can go unnoticed and quickly cause errors and incomplete data.

6. Lost Time Spent in Navigation - It can become extremely difficult to find the exact data that you need in a spreadsheet when it has grown to hundreds of rows, multiple tabs, and additional linked spreadsheets have been created to handle the information being tracked. Spreadsheet search functions are often very simplistic, leading to users manually scrubbing through pages of data to find what they are looking for, leading to lost time that can quickly add up.

7. Security Concerns - Encryption for both offline and online spreadsheets may not be strong enough for the sensitive company information contained within them. In addition, employees may not enable the potential security measures that are available, leaving data vulnerable. This complication leads to our next issue.

8. Regulatory Compliance Issues - Countries around the world are holding businesses accountable for the safety of the massive amounts of data they hold, with regulations such as the EU Data Protection Directive and the Dodd-Frank Act creating a higher standard that many spreadsheets do not reach. If steps are not taken to protect spreadsheet data, companies can be held liable for any breaches that occur.

9. Slowdown in Decision Making - Consolidating and extracting data from spreadsheets, especially when this information must be compiled from different departments, can be time consuming. This can take even more time when a company is experiencing data integrity issues and must thoroughly validate the information. As a result, critical business decisions can be delayed as management waits for spreadsheet data to be finalized for their review.

10. Issues with Scaling - A growing business creates more data spread out across more team members and larger departments. This scaling creates greater pressure on spreadsheets and can compound the previous nine spreadsheet problems until they begin happening more frequently and across more areas of the business.

Moving Past Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets can be a critical part of your business without holding you back if you are using the right platform to interconnect and support your business. Learn about what an Operational System of Record can do for your company through our helpful ebook, “Can Technology Accelerate Your Services Business?”

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