The European Spreadsheet Risk Interest Group (EUSPRIG) (no, really!) maintains a list of spreadsheet horror stories  and when you have plenty of time on your hands you might like to browse through their extensive list of corporate fails. For those with less time on their hands has kindly reduced that to the eight worst spreadsheet blunders – admittedly back in 2007 but history tells us the future.

There is no denying the spreadsheet. For all we know about how risky they are and how that risk magnifies exponentially as the amount of calculation cells increases, we still love them dearly. The great thing about the spreadsheet is that freedom to do anything you want, limited only by your own imagination and 17 million cells per worksheet. Of course the major problem with spreadsheets is ….. your imagination and 17 million cells per worksheet.

The common pitfalls with spreadsheet blunders seem to include (but not limited to):

  • I didn’t know where the correct data was to start with.
  • The data changed after I took my copy of it.
  • I got a cell wrong and then referenced it everywhere else.
  • I got a cell wrong and then I copied it everywhere.
  • The version I sent around to everyone wasn’t my final work.
  • After I sent it around somebody changed it.
  • I gathered all the data together but I’m no expert in this particular area.
  • I didn’t get anyone to check my work.
  • I got someone to check my work but they were no more expert than me.

The list goes on… And each pitfall sets up the next for increasingly catastrophic results.

Successful business requires policy and procedure, command and control and accurate data in a timely fashion. None of these would really be seen as core strengths of the spreadsheet.

A 2013 report by Ventana Research suggested that companies considered dealing with spreadsheets just a cost of doing business. Also, unsurprisingly, the more important the contents of a spreadsheet, the more likely it was to be shared around. Respondents even suggested that debugging spreadsheets was actually a core part of their job responsibility. So, what to do? If we can’t wean ourselves off the spreadsheet (and that seems to be one of the hardest corporate addictions) then we need to wrap our important spreadsheets into a management framework that reduces and manages their risks.

In the oil & gas sector things are no different. Using XMPro, we have been working with companies in this industry to wrap a quality management process around their very complex and multi usage spreadsheets to combine the flexibility of the format, the benefits of collaboration and a much-needed layer of compliance. Contact us to discuss how we can help iron out or better manage the spreadsheets in your business.


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You can read more about Professional Advantage and XMPro here.

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