Spreadsheets can be useful for many purposes, but long-term storage of and analysis of business information is not one of them. limitations are a common problem for businesses who try to achieve this, regardless of whether they use Excel or another spreadsheet application to manage their day-to-day operations.
Challenges of Spreadsheets
There are many challenges that spreadsheets can present, not just the ones mentioned above.
Slowdown in Decision Making
Consolidating and extracting data from spreadsheets can take time, especially if the information is compiled from multiple departments. If a company has data integrity problems, this can make it more difficult and require additional validation. Management waiting for the spreadsheet data to be completed for review can delay critical business decisions.
Growing businesses create more data, which is spread across more people and more departments. The pressure of scaling can make spreadsheets more difficult and can lead to more problems in the future.
Spreadsheets depend on users entering the correct equations, which makes them vulnerable to human error. These spreadsheets can become more complicated over time, and it is easy for data and equations to fail due to simple errors. This can result in invalid data, and wasted time trying to fix it.
Lost Time in Navigation
When a spreadsheet has hundreds of rows and multiple tabs, it can be very difficult to find the data you are looking for. Additionally linked spreadsheets have also been created to track the information. Spreadsheet search functions can be very simple, requiring users to manually go through pages of data in order to find what they need. This can lead to wasted time that can quickly add up.
Both offline and online encryption may not be sufficient to protect sensitive company information within the spreadsheets. Employees may not enable security features that are available, making data vulnerable. This leads us to the next issue.
Using spreadsheets to manage business processes can often lead to problems with version control. Multiple conflicting versions can result if the business does not keep track of which version is used for data entry. These conflicting versions can lead to serious problems when they are used in business decisions.
Some spreadsheet programs limit the number of users who can edit the same sheet at once. This is to prevent multiple edits at once, but it can also slow down your resources’ time while they wait to access the information, they need to do their work. This is especially true if multiple people are using the same document.
Massive File Size
Autosaves and upgrades can quickly increase the file size of spreadsheets, particularly those that are frequently used and edited. While it is possible to keep older versions of spreadsheets on file in case of errors or the need for backups, this can quickly increase file sizes. The backlog of documents can cause a company to have a slowdown in its network due to a large number of spreadsheets.
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Data Validation Problems
Incorrect data entry can lead to spreadsheet errors. Consistent validation is necessary in order to avoid inaccurate insights that could go unnoticed for long periods. Simple mistakes such as transposing numbers incorrectly or using different naming conventions can quickly lead to incomplete data and errors.
Businesses around the globe are being held responsible for the security of their massive data. Regulations such as the EU Data Protection Directive or the Dodd-Frank Act created a higher standard than most spreadsheets. Companies can be held responsible for any data breaches that may occur if they fail to take steps to protect spreadsheet data.
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