Spreadsheet Hell

Are You Living in Spreadsheet Hell?

Top 7 tell tale signs that spreadsheets just aren’t working1. Volume. Count them. Are there hundreds? Count how many a single cost centre manager has to fill in for your annual budget. We’d suggest that one seems the right number. How many do you have? Are there different spreadsheets for each year, each version, for the P&L, balance sheet and cashflow? Why does this volume matter? Try adding a product or service to your budget.2. Protection. Do you spend more time protecting your spreadsheets from your own staff than you do locking the petty cash away? You are probably paranoid that they will insert a row in somewhere and break all the links or they will corrupt a calculation and fill page after page with #VALUE. The more links and the more spreadsheets you have, the more important this protection becomes.3. Editing, and specifically your aversion to it. We meet many companies who actively try to avoid adding new products, services or account codes, even when they really do need them, just to avoid the work involved in changing all those linked spreadsheets and having to ensure all of the calculations still work. Ask yourself how long it would take to add one extra product or service into your budget or forecast. Now ask yourself how long it would take to add an extra cost centre or department. You probably aren’t talking minutes are you?4. Version control. Or to be more accurate, an aversion to versions! Budgets don’t suddenly appear: they evolve. Tracking the versions and the reasons between them is not only useful but vital to understanding how you ended up with the budget you have. Keeping all of the versions together, with variances between them should be easy. Keeping them in separate spreadsheets with no easy way to compare them is impractical and a waste of useful information.5. Data control. Related to the above is trying to ensure that what you have in your group spreadsheet is the same as that held in the cost centre spreadsheet. The problem is that once someone has sent you their sheet, there’s nothing to stop them from changing theirs. The discrepancies only tend to come to light when someone makes the comment ‘that’s not what we agreed’ followed by much time wasting as the managers debate who has the right version ‘of the truth’ .6. Time. It figures that a task that takes a lot of time is best done as few times as possible. If you would like monthly rolling forecasts, but decided that forecasts would be done twice a year because the process took too much time, then you immediately fall into the category of planners who let the drawbacks of spreadsheets become a drawback to running your business properly.7. Reporting and Analysis. Spreadsheets only tend to hold one view of the data which is fixed as ‘rows and columns’. But what if you want to analyse spend by market sector or by product? What you need is a different view – but that involves either duplicating the data or creating a large number of error-prone cell links.

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