Spreadsheets and Tyranny!
I have both read and written about spreadsheets on numerous occasions over many years including an article I wrote back in 2018 on How Close Are You to a Spreadsheet Disaster?. In all that time and research, I have never seen the words ‘Tyranny’ and ‘Spreadsheets’ together in an article let alone in the title! That was until last week when I was reading the Financial Times.
This is where I came across an excellent piece written by @TimHartford, (timharford.com), called The tyranny of spreadsheets. Tim was prompted to write this article by the news that nearly 16,000 positive Covid cases had disappeared completely from the UK’s Covid contact tracing system. Tim is known as ‘The Undercover Economist’ and has written a host of books and articles which he describes as ‘exploring the economic ideas behind everyday experiences’.
Before you jump into reading the article it is a long read so make sure you have the time! What I will say, is it is well worth it. It draws on the history of accounting to tell the story of how we got to spreadsheets and the tyranny they represent!
To finish this blog I will go back to my piece from 2018 and offer the same advice from my experiences with many organisations, spreadsheets, finance departments and software applications over the past 30 years:
How do organisations avoid tyranny? Stop using spreadsheets?
It’s unlikely this will happen. But I do suggest that organisations stop using spreadsheet for tasks and processes that require a robust and secure business system. What do I mean?
- Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting – sharing, updating and changing uncontrolled spreadsheets is an unnecessary manual, slow, insecure and risky situation when there are so many great solutions available for these applications. With many solutions available ‘in the cloud’ they are not difficult to implement or expensive so the barriers to acquisition are not high.
- Financial Consolidation, Close, Reporting and Analysis – again re-keying data from corporate accounting systems into spreadsheets for these tasks creates unnecessary risk. There are solutions that take data directly from accounting systems and provide interactive reporting and analysis with security and ready-made key reports like P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Forecasts. Again, many of these are Cloud solutions.
So, my final question is, why risk tyranny? Business solutions are no longer expensive or difficult to implement. I am very happy to provide advice and debate the subject. If you want to know more or maybe tell me I am wrong, please reach out via LinkedIn or use the contact page of our website www.brovanture.com.
For more blogs posted by my colleagues, see the Brovanture website HERE
Until next time…