20 Jun 14

3 common myths about using spreadsheets for non-financial reporting

11642581994_1090fb7034_zDid you know that an estimated 88% of spreadsheets contain errors [Source: Marketwatch]. So, why is it then that many organisations are still using spreadsheets for their non-financial reporting

Spreadsheets are perceived as an easy, quick and accessible solution. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case; for many organisations the reverse its true. In some instances, the myths surrounding spreadsheets are preventing CSR professionals from making an accurate, data-driven decision.

Myth #1: Spreadsheets are easy to use

People who aren’t familiar with spreadsheets tend to be the exception rather than the rule. It makes sense then that people turn to a system that they already know. But, it’s not as easy as it initially appears. First of all, manual input processes lend themselves to inaccuracies. According to Ray Panko, professor of IT management at University of Hawaii, spreadsheets contain errors in 1% or more of the formula cells, even after careful development [Source: Marketwatch]. In large organisations, with complex data sets, this rate of inaccuracy is only likely to increase.

Myth #2: Using spreadsheets is a cheap option 

Everyone in the company has access to Excel. There’s no additional software to buy, so no immediate financial outlay to get started. However, problems will quickly emerge that mean spreadsheets are not as cheap as they first appear.

Consider the following questions:

  • How long did it take to setup the spreadsheet(s)?

  • How long did it take to enter all of the data?

  • How long did it take to manipulate the data in the spreadsheet?

All of this takes time and effort before you have anything close to a workable solution. On top of this, you have to consider whether the answers and insights that you draw from spreadsheets are giving you enough information. Are you able to make business decisions based on the quality of the data? Or are you spending time just trying to get the data into the right place?

The savings that you made by not making that initial financial outlay are spent in trying to make spreadsheets work, while having to maintain multiple formats and requirements, which are both changing over time.

Myth #3: Spreadsheets are an accessible option 

The widespread use of spreadsheets in most, if not all, organisations means they are an accessible option. Everyone has Excel on their work computers, so everyone is able to open spreadsheets. 

But accessibility also brings with it some problems. For instance, where the spreadsheet is stored? Typically, they are stored on a local hard drive. If this is the case, what happens when you have a hard drive failure? Additionally, what process do you have in place to manage version control of your documents? How are you going to stop your data from being overwritten and lost? 

Then, with more people working remotely, mobile access to spreadsheets also becomes a problem. How are you going to ensure that everyone who needs to access the spreadsheet is able to do so, even when they are out of the office.

By unpicking the myths that surround spreadsheets, it’s evident that they are not as easy, cheap or accessible as they first appear.

Want to find out more about the alternatives to spreadsheets for your non-financial reporting? Talk to us today:

Contact Greenstone

Subscribe to the Greenstone blog


[Image Credit: Kunal Bhardwaj

Non-Financial Reporting