Using spreadsheets in a business environment is a common practice nowadays. It has been for decades now.
Companies are just “used to” using spreadsheets to store, manage, and work with important data. Increasingly, businesses and individuals also use spreadsheets to store all manner of sensitive information such as passwords and bank account details.
However, there is a hidden danger in working with spreadsheets. Namely, Excel (and any other spreadsheet app) does not provide any audit trail or proper security. Also, it is possible to lose all the stored information due to tiny mistakes. Also, UI? Not the most sophisticated of the bunch.
So, how “good” is using spreadsheets for data management?
In this article, we explore the most common risks associated with spreadsheets and how to avoid them.
Top 3 Risks of Using Spreadsheets for Data Management
Spreadsheets are readily available, easy to learn, and very helpful for presenting data in a neat, organized manner that is easy to comprehend. However, they also have a few setbacks when it comes to data.
Here are the three most common risks of using spreadsheets for data management.
1. Spreadsheet tools have size and performance limits.
When a spreadsheet gets too large or complex for Excel to handle, its performance can be significantly affected. This can lead to errors in calculations or displaying data.
Spreadsheet tools are fine for small data. But, if you plan to collect much information in one spreadsheet, you may hit some not-so-pleasant performance limits. And, when that happens, it happens without warning and may result in app crashes or data loss.
2. You can lose all your work due to one mistake.
Spreadsheets are very flexible tools. They allow you to input data in many different ways so that they can accommodate your needs. But, flexibility is also a double-edged sword when using spreadsheets for data management.
The problem with being flexible is that you can easily introduce errors if you are not careful enough when entering the information. Spreadsheet tools don’t have any auditing, change control, or meta-data features designed to prevent any unintended user error. So, users may encounter losing hours of hard work due to an error caused in a microsecond.
3. Spreadsheets don’t save you any time.
Many people believe that spreadsheets are faster than other data management systems. However, the fact is that anything you can do in a spreadsheet tool can be done in any other system as well.
With spreadsheets, you often need to enter or paste data from one sheet to another manually. Also, you need to check formulas manually. And, if you need to clean data, you will also have to do it on your own.
But, of course, all tools and apps have their drawbacks. Just because spreadsheets are not perfect, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used.
The most significant benefits of spreadsheets lie in the fact that they are:
Able to manage the computation graph for you.
Spreadsheets are designed to show us the data, not the calculations behind it. And, all the data can be presented in a visually-pleasing manner so that it is easy to understand and consume. From creating charts and graphs to visualizing dependencies, spreadsheets unleash your creativity and give you the freedom to build something according to your own vision.
If you’d like to take your spreadsheet data management to the next level and eliminate all the risks associated with it, we have the perfect solution for you.
Budgeting Solutions uses IBM Planning Analytics to meet your current and future analytical needs. We can help you automate processes while simplifying data mapping and data access and build a complete data management platform.
Most importantly, we enable knowledge workers to communicate where insights are valued most – inside reports and dashboards – allowing you to forget about screenshots and printed reports!