It seems spreadsheets are the route of all evil if you believe everything you read today. Much like a difficult toddler they make mistakes, often get unruly and difficult to handle and don't share easily.
Nevertheless we in finance love them. Like offspring we've nurtured the spreadsheet as one of our own. There are times we'd happily scream at them but, like our offspring they have our own stamp running through them. They are tricky to adopt from others, as there are lots of hidden codes to understand and learn so they behave well, and you can build a relationship with them.
So how can we cling to spreadsheets and make them work when all around us are heralding that it's time to let go and move on?
Spreadsheets need a stable home
Spreadsheets are renowned for growing throughout their life, often uncontrollably, multiplying rapidly (also known as “versioning”). It's recommended they are properly backed up to ensure no loss of data. Putting them on a virtual server maybe necessary, but expensive. If not they'll outgrow their space and everything will start to pinch.
parents and Guardians
Spreadsheets can take quite a lot of looking after. It is recommended that you have at least two guardians. It means the spreadsheet, it's formulas, links and structure has continuity in 'care'. If you limit your spreadsheet to one parent - then you run the risk of no-one else knowing how to manage and nurture them when needed. It also means if one guardian falls ill or leaves there is no crisis.
The right guardian will know how to get the best from a spreadsheet. Whilst adopters may find there are hidden codes and behavioral issues that take time to learn.
As we know spreadsheets can get pretty hefty. Once they get too large, they also become difficult to manipulate, with less flexibility which leads to them 'crashing'. Too much information, detail and volume can be tricky for a spreadsheet, so be realistic about the volume and level of detail your model can handle. Know and log all the formulas so you have a trail and don't over work your spreadsheet with too manky links - know it's limitations, otherwise you may spend hours nursing a sick spreadsheet.
We all rely on software to some extent. We expect it to evolve and improve much like our kids. Yet for some reason when it comes to spreadsheets we don't recognise when it is time to let them go. There is an attachment issue around spreadsheets, largely because they are so lovable and we understand them. Yet they can also be a terrible tie .
Using spreadsheets for the right reasons and purpose, will mean we can still get the best from them, and stay in love with them. Push them beyond their limits and the relationship becomes strained.
When spreadsheets are preventing good governance, are unable to provide the insight and information needed and sapping too much time or stopping you working with others, then it's time to to ask if you have attachment issues. then its time to evolve.
Until recently there was no alternative to having a spreadsheet . We do now have a solution, this can be bought from us, in the form of cloud planning solutions such as “Adaptive Insights”.
This development will mean your spreadsheet will be shareable, can grow in a managed way and work faster and easier. We have moved many spreadsheet monsters over the years, and now the owners are an awful lot happier.
They work faster and perform much better. They can learn lots more and become very sociable. They love being shared and are much less demanding on their keepers.
Perhaps we can help you with the monsters in your office? Our team have lots of experience in handling them and keeping all the things you love about them, but without the tantrums we have all experienced.
Hear what life is like after Excel, Martin Webster from SDL shares his experiences of moving beyond Excel.