Death by Excel: Are Spreadsheets Killing Your Business?

Published: 30 June 2017

Do you rely on Excel for running business operations? Does reporting take days? Can you collaborate on documents easily?

Microsoft Excel is an application for creating spreadsheets where you can hold, format and calculate data. Due to its familiarity, it is a popular choice for managing financials, supply chain, manufacturing processes and sales functions. In fact, our unique study found 20 per cent of businesses use Excel to manage their customer data. However, familiarity and convenience of Excel does not always translate into efficiency and productivity…

Five Ways Excel Can Damage your Business…


How many times have you been working on a report in Excel only to discover that you have an error in a formula? Have you been working overtime to complete your financial month end? This is a very common issue for Excel users that can lead to poor decision making and carry enormous financial consequences. For example, in 2016 M&S had to issue a correction to its quarterly trading statement due to double counting in a spreadsheet. In 2011 Mouchel, support services group, was struck by an £8.6m error attributed to a miscalculation in an actuary’s spreadsheet.

Lack of version control

If you have multiple people working on one spreadsheet it is hard to track changes. Also, if one person fails to save a document to a shared folder, this can give rise to several conflicting versions. Good luck figuring out which is right – which takes us to the next issue…

The Problem with Sharing

If people maintain their own spreadsheets and store them locally, no one else can access what they are working on – problematic if someone is sick or leaves. As a result, data may be scattered about in multiple folders, on several machines or even in geographically disparate areas. This can make the process of tracking down important documents extremely difficult and time consuming.

Wasting Precious Time

According to a survey, employees spend approximately 12 hours each month consolidating, modifying and correcting spreadsheets, which equals to one and a half business days. Moreover, according to Ventana research, 54 per cent of companies that use spreadsheets take seven or more days to perform the monthly close – what could you do with those few extra days a month?

Security Issues

Spreadsheets are open by nature and although Excel allows you to protect your work with password control and rights management, these features are often neglected. Not encrypted and at risk of unauthorised access, spreadsheets can become a vulnerability. According to Guardian, 10 per cent of businesses admit to experiencing a “significant” data breach related to spreadsheets.

It’s time to leave Excel behind…

Flexible, easy to use and practical, spreadsheets remain deep-rooted in many businesses carrying reams of data, facts and figures. This dependence, however, comes with risks, which shouldn’t be ignored.

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