Spreadsheet Risk Issues

It is interesting to note that the riskiness of operational spreadsheets are overlooked even by companies with high standards of risk management. Only when errors amount to actual losses do they realize that these risks have been staring them in the face all along.

Common spreadsheet risk issues

Susceptibility to trivial manual errors

Due to the fundamental structure of spreadsheets, a slight change in the formula or value in any of their inhabited cells may already affect their overall output. An

  • accidental copy-paste,
  • omission of a negative sign,
  • erroneous range selection,
  • incorrect data input or
  • unintentional deletion of a character,cell, range, column, or row

are just some of the simple errors spreadsheet users frequently encounter. Rarely are there any counter-checking controls in place in a spreadsheet-based activity and manual errors therefore easily go undetected.

Possibility of the user working on the wrong version

How do you store spreadsheet files?

Since the most common reports are usually generated on a monthly basis, users tend to store them using variations of these two configurations:

spreadsheet storage

If you notice, a user can accidentally work on the wrong version with any of these structures.

Prone to inconsistent company-wide reporting

This happens when a summary or ?final? spreadsheet is fed information by different departments coming from their own spreadsheets. Even if most of the data in their spreadsheets come from one source (the company-wide database), erroneous copy-pasting and linking, or even different interpretations of the same data can result to contradicting information in the end.

Often defenceless against unauthorised access

Some spreadsheets contain information needed by various individuals or department units in an organisation. Hence, they are often shared via email or through shared folders in a network. Now, because spreadsheets don’t normally use any access control, any user can easily open a spreadsheet file and view or modify the contents as he wishes.

Highly vulnerable to fraud

A complex spreadsheet system with zero or very minimal controls provides the perfect setting for would-be fraudsters. Hidden cells with malicious formulas and links to bogus information can go unnoticed for a long time especially if the final figures don’t deviate much from expected values.

Spreadsheet risk mitigation solutions may not suffice

Inherent complexity makes testing and logic inspection very time consuming

Deep testing can uncover possible errors hidden in spreadsheet cells and consequently mitigate risks. But spreadsheets used to support financial reporting are normally large, complex, highly-personalised and, without ample supporting documentation, understandably hard to follow.

No clear ownership of risk management responsibilities

There?s always a dilemma when an organisation starts assigning risk management responsibilities for spreadsheets. IT personnel believe users in the business side of the organisation should be responsible since they are the ones who create, edit, store, duplicate, and share the spreadsheet files. On the other hand, users believe IT should be responsible since they have always been in-charge of managing IT infrastructure, applications, and files.

To get rid of spreadsheet risks, you’ll have to get rid of spreadsheets altogether

One remedy is to have a risk management activity that involves both IT personnel and spreadsheet users. But wouldn’t you want to get rid of the complexity of having to distribute the responsibilities between the two parties instead of just one?

Learn more about Denizon’s server application solutions and how you can get rid of spreadsheet risk issues.

More Spreadsheet Blogs


Spreadsheet Risks in Banks


Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry


How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence


Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment


Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework


Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations


Spreadsheet Risk Issues


Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back


Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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These days, not many companies can continue to operate once their entire computer system goes down. All the information needed in daily operations are stored in databases while the interfaces that make use of them all come in the form of software applications.

Software applications can be rapidly reinstalled and configured for as long as the necessary programs are available. Data, however, cannot be reconstructed as quickly even with hard copies available. It is therefore necessary to store your data in a replicated setup so that when one section goes down, operations can proceed without interruption.

For instance, if a category 5 hurricane renders your main office useless, you can simply rent workstations elsewhere, connect to the Internet and continue with your usual transactions for as long as data is readily accessible.

So how do we ensure the accessibility and reliability of your data? Here’s what we’ll do:

  • Activate data replication on your database management system. If your DBMS does not support replication, we’ll migrate all your data to one that does.
  • If absolutely necessary, we can allow modernised systems to run parallel to your legacy systems and prepare both for full modernisation when you’re ready.
  • Implement fail-over technologies where applicable to provide for automatic switching to a backup data server or network from one that has just failed.

We can also assist you with the following:

Energy Cooperation Mechanisms in the EU

While the original mission of the European Union was to bring countries together to prevent future wars, this has spun out into a variety of other cooperative mechanisms its founders may never have dreamed of. Take energy for example, where the European Energy Directive puts energy cooperation mechanisms in place to help member states achieve the collective goal.

This inter-connectivity is essential because countries have different opportunities. For example, some may easily meet their renewable targets with an abundance of suitable rivers, while others may have a more regular supply of sunshine. To capitalise on these opportunities the EU created an internal energy market to make it easier for countries to work together and achieve their goals in cost-effective ways. The three major mechanisms are

  • Joint Projects
  • Statistical Transfers
  • Joint Support Schemes

Joint Projects

The simplest form is where two member states co-fund a power generation, heating or cooling scheme and share the benefits. This could be anything from a hydro project on their common border to co-developing bio-fuel technology. They do not necessarily share the benefits, but they do share the renewable energy credits that flow from it.

An EU country may also enter into a joint project with a non-EU nation, and claim a portion of the credit, provided the project generates electricity and this physically flows into the union.

Statistical Transfers

A statistical transfer occurs when one member state has an abundance of renewable energy opportunities such that it can readily meet its targets, and has surplus credits it wishes to exchange for cash. It ?sells? these through the EU accounting system to a country willing to pay for the assistance.

This aspect of the cooperative mechanism provides an incentive for member states to exceed their targets. It also controls costs, because the receiver has the opportunity to avoid more expensive capital outlays.

Joint Support Schemes

In the case of joint support schemes, two or more member countries combine efforts to encourage renewable energy / heating / cooling systems in their respective territories. This concept is not yet fully explored. It might for example include common feed-in tariffs / premiums or common certificate trading and quota systems.

Conclusion

A common thread runs through these three cooperative mechanisms and there are close interlinks. The question in ecoVaro?s mind is the extent to which the system will evolve from statistical support systems, towards full open engagement.

How to Improve Corporate Efficiency through IT

When revenues are low, what do you do to improve your profit? Obviously, those same revenues should at least remain the same. So, the objective would be to deliver the same products and services for less cost. More for less. Such is the essence of corporate efficiency.

There are many things that can make a company inefficient. There are outdated procedures, poor coordination between departments, managers? lack of business visibility, and prolonged down times, to mention a few. As a company grows, these issues get more severe.

You can overcome all these by deploying the right IT solutions. But don’t IT solutions increase spending instead? Au contraire. The last couple of decades have seen the rise of IT solutions that help companies’realise obvious cost savings in no time.

Streamline processes and keep departments in-sync

Company inefficiencies are largely due to outdated systems and procedures. These systems and procedures were not built for the dynamic and complex business environments of today that are being shaped by increasingly onerous regulations, fierce and growing competition, significant economic upswings and downturns, new battlefronts (like the Web) and logistical strategies (like outsourcing), and IT-savvy crooks.

So when your employees force outdated systems to meet today?s business demands, they’re just not able to deliver. At least not efficiently.

Another major cause of inefficiency is the discordance among departments, business units, and even individual staff members themselves. There are those who still use highly personalised spreadsheets and other disparate applications, which make data consolidation take forever and the financial close a perennial headache.

Costly devices like mobile phones, netbooks, and tablet PCs, which are supposedly designed to provide better communication, are not fully maximised. If these are subsidised by the company, then they also contribute to company inefficiency.

One way to deal with these issues is to deploy server based solutions. By centralising your IT system, you can easily implement various improvements that can pave the way for better communication and collaboration, stronger security, faster processes and transactions, and shorter down times for troubleshooting and maintenance. All these clearly translate to cost savings.

Gain better visibility

Corporate efficiency can be improved if your decision makers can make wise and well-informed decisions, faster. But they can only do this if reports they receive from people down the line are timely, accurate, and reliable. Basically, data should be presented in a way for managers to gain quick insights from.

If your people take too much time scrutinising, interpreting, and reconciling data, you can’t hope to gain a significant competitive advantage. Equally important to managing an ongoing project is the speed at which you make a go/no go decision to start or stop a project. A wise, quick decision will help you avoid wastage.

The same holds true when making purchases and investment decisions. It’s all about quickly eliminating waste and investing only on those that will give you fast, positive returns.

Clear business visibility will allow managers to allocate resources where they are most effective, to pinpoint what products and services being offered are more profitable, and to identify which customers are giving better business from an overall perspective.

These are all possible with business intelligence. We know, we know. You’ll say BI solutions will force you to break the bank. Not anymore. At least, not all. There are already two main types of BI solutions: on-premise and SaaS. The latter will generally cost you less.

Of course, each type has its own advantages, and you’ll really have to look into the size of your organisation, the number of source systems your decision-making platform is connected to, integration requirements, budget, etc. to make sure you get the most out of your investment.

But IT solutions cost an arm and a leg

Again, not anymore. These days, you can find IT products that are faster, more functional, and more powerful than their predecessors at a fraction of the cost. When it comes to getting more affordable IT products and services, you now have many options.

For example, you can turn to open source solutions to save on license costs. These solutions are typically backed by vibrant and helpful communities where you can find an extensive source of technical support – many of which are for free. With popular open source products, you can easily tap from a large pool of developers with affordable rates any time you want to make system enhancements or customisation.

On another front, virtualization solutions allow you to save on CAPEX and OPEX by eliminating certain expenses normally used for setting up infrastructure or buying hardware and maintaining them. Server virtualisation, for instance, will allow you to consolidate servers and put them together into just one machine, while desktop virtualisation will enable you to eliminate unproductive hours associated with desktop down times by allowing you to redeploy a malfunctioning desktop very quickly.

Closely related to those are cloud-based solutions like SaaS (Software as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), and DCoD (Data Center on Demand). SaaS and IaaS will help you realize savings in acquisition and maintenance costs for software and hardware, while DCoD?s scalable services allow you to request for additional capacity, power and storage only as you need them, thus making you spend only according to your current infrastructure requirements.

Like we said, there are many, many options out there just waiting to be tapped.

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