Saturday, May 14, 2005

Planning with Spreadsheets - Good Article on challenges with spreadsheets in general

A large number of organizations run their business processes with spreadsheets as their main tool. Planning processes are no exception. Spreadsheet based business process solutions are not treated like an enterprise resource. Their improper usage can cost companies a pretty penny. Spreadsheet management solutions are critical to address that. Thanks to my friend, Krishna Rangarajan, who alerted me to this article by Philip Howard. In this previous article and this previous article, I had written about the challenges of using spreadsheets for planning. The article, by Philip, talks about other challenges with managing spreadsheet driven business processes in general. He does not focus too much on the concurrency issue (making decisions based on current information rather than stale information) which I think is a critical problem. In the article, Philip also lays out what he considers as must have capabilities of a spreadsheet management system. According to Philip, the common problems with spreadsheets based business processes are
  1. Error potential from data errors, formula errors and macro errors.
  2. Security challenges including the non-use of password protection in most spreadsheets and the lack of user level access control.
  3. Lack of the usage of the auditing capabilities in spreadsheets and lack of ability to manage the auditing across the spreadsheet environment.
According to Philip, for spreadsheet driven processes to be robust, they should be considered as enterprise resource and managed accordingly. A good spreadsheet management system would
  1. provide the ability to lock down at cell-level using user level security
  2. log every change to a macro or a formula or data
  3. make sure that the changes to spreadsheet formula or macros are adequately tested and documented
There are some other good thoughts from Philip on what to do in a corporate environment right now till good spreadsheet management systems arise.
Some interesting companies that I noticed in this area - ClusterSeven, Exchecker, some solutions from master data management and Business Intelligence companies, etc.
What do you think?
Karthik Mani

No comments:

Post a Comment