Spreadsheets are not Collaborative Tools 

Spreadsheets were never designed for collaboration, yet they are the single most used program among teams and co-workers. They often start out as a quick document for storing, formatting or calculating information but evolve into important documents and are often the core records for an organisation. As more information is added to a worksheet, more people need to use that data which means that sharing the document becomes vital.

    The revolution of spreadsheets 

    While electronic spreadsheets have revolutionised everyday organisations they also have many disadvantages, a major one being that spreadsheets work poorly as databases. Because spreadsheets have a row-and-column format similar to a table in a database they are the default tool for this type of information, but they are not designed to store huge amounts of data and so become cumbersome when multiple users try to access and update the data.

    Spreadsheets can only be updated by one person at a time and so sharing real-time information is not possible. Multiple users are able to view the worksheets but the information they are looking at could become quickly out of date because someone else may be working on it elsewhere in the organisatio which makes it hard to collaborate. As users are unaware, they are working with old data decisions and actions taken could be impaired. 

    While more recent iterations of software have features such as co-authoring and access permissions such as different view, comment or edit features, a spreadsheet is likely to have multiple sheets, and there is no easy way to share these individual sheets with team members.

    Spreadsheets also grow in complexity 

    Spreadsheets grow over time and accumulate errors which can take a lot of time and resources to find and fix. If multiple users are updating spreadsheets, it is very easy for different versions to become corrupted or un-synchronized. This makes any changes hard to track and so the information becomes less trustworthy. An audit trail is an important means of preserving the integrity of data; however, a spreadsheet program does not have audit trails for data or formulas. Although several people may have had a hand in creating a spreadsheet, it is not possible to identify who worked on specific parts. 

    A spreadsheet may appear attractive and convincing but can be riddled with undetected errors. The worksheets may appear straight forward on the surface but hide a complex array of rules and formulas that require technical expertise to audit and update. While a suitably qualified person might have designed the spreadsheet an unqualified data entry clerk, who may be comfortable entering data, but who does not have the ability to develop formulas, macros or understand the strategic vision for the reporting, can easily corrupt the files. This means shared spreadsheets are prone to corruption and therefore pose a reporting risk for the enterprise.

    Spreadsheets have been used as a key business tool for over 40 years and despite better and more suitable software being available spreadsheets are not going anywhere. Businesses will continue to keep working with them so how can organisations mitigate the associated risks of multiple input from a wide number or distributed workforce and good data?

    We have produced a complimentary e-book which sets out six critical risks of reporting in spreadsheets and how to mitigate them. 


      You may also be interested in

      Mercur Solutions (UK) Limited - UK office

      Mercur Solutions Limited
      Ocean House, The Ring, Bracknell RG12 1AX, United Kingdom
      +44 (0) 1344 388 025

      Mercur Solutions AB - head office in Sweden

      Mercur Solutions AB
      Vretenvägen 13, SE-171 54 Solna
      +46 (0)-459 69 00


      Malmo Office

      Stortorget 3, SE-211 22 Malmö


      Kyrkogatan 24, SE-411 15 Göteborg

      Mercur Solutions

      A Swedish company with over 40 years of experience, delivering solutions for performance management and business intelligence.




      Read Mercur Business Control Reviews on GetApp.com