14 MarA spreadsheet story without any horror

Last week’s post focussed on the horror stories of what goes wrong when spreadsheets get out of control. This week’s post is about the other side of that coin; the good news that there are tools available to help you control the spreadsheet jungle.

A recent article in Forbes covered this topic. (See: Forbes, Feb 19th: Solutions To Spreadsheet Risk Post JPM’s London Whale) It is well worth a read. Tools such as Cluster Seven, can, and will, help you in this area. They are not though the proverbial global panacea for all ills. Last week we highlighted three specific risks to watch out for when using spreadsheets:

  1. Wrong Formulae Risk
  2. Copy / Paste Risk
  3. Reconciliation Risk

From a first study of what is on offer, it would seem that having an extra control tool for your spreadsheet will go some way to addressing the first of these issues; spotting wrong formulae and controlling for inadvertent changes.

Items two and three are harder to compensate for. If you copy a number from another system and it is wrong, but at least plausible, then rather like your MS Word spell-checker allowing both “right” and “write”, the control tool is somewhat unlikely to notice the error.

Reconciliation risk is a binary problem; either you reconcile or you don’t. Again, an oversight tool will not a priori tell you that the reconciliation has been done.

Lessons Learned: It is good news that there are tools to help you manage spreadsheets. They are just that; help. They need to be used wisely.

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