Spreadsheet Woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and Other Regulations

End User Computing (EUC) or end User Developed Application (UDA) systems like spreadsheets used to be ideal ad-hoc solutions for data processing and financial reporting. But those days are long gone.

Today, due to regulations like the:

  • Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act,
  • Dodd-Frank Act,
  • IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards),
  • E.U. Data Protection Directive,
  • Basel II,
  • NAIC Model Audit Rules,
  • FAS 157,
  • yes, there?s more ? and counting

a company can be bogged down when it tries to comply with such regulations while maintaining spreadsheet-reliant financial and information systems.

In an age where regulatory compliance have become part of the norm, companies need to enforce more stringent control measures like version control, access control, testing, reconciliation, and many others, in order to pass audits and to ensure that their spreadsheets are giving them only accurate and reliable information.

Now, the problem is, these control measures aren’t exactly tailor-made for a spreadsheet environment. While yes, it is possible to set up a spreadsheet and EUC control environment that utilises best practices, this is a potentially expensive, laborious, and time-consuming exercise, and even then, the system will still not be as foolproof or efficient as the regulations call for.

Testing and reconciliation alone can cost a significant amount of time and money to be effective:

  1. It requires multiple testers who need to test spreadsheets down to the cell level.
  2. Testers will have to deal with terribly disorganized and complicated spreadsheet systems that typically involve single cells being fed information by other cells in other sheets, which in turn may be found in other workbooks, or in another folder.
  3. Each month, an organisation may have new spreadsheets with new links, new macros, new formulas, new locations, and hence new objects to test.
  4. Spreadsheets rarely come with any kind of supporting documentation and version control, further hampering the verification process.
  5. Because Windows won’t allow you to open two Excel files with the same name simultaneously and because a succession of monthly-revised spreadsheets separated by mere folders but still bearing the same name is common in spreadsheet systems, it would be difficult to compare one spreadsheet with any of its older versions.

But testing and reconciliation are just two of the many activities that make regulatory compliance terribly tedious for a spreadsheet-reliant organisation. Therefore, the sheer intricacy of spreadsheet systems make examining and maintaining them next to impossible.

On the other hand, you can’t afford not to take these regulations seriously. Non-compliance with regulatory mandates can have dire consequences, not the least of which is the loss of investor confidence. And when investors start to doubt the management’s capability, customers will start to walk away too. Now that is a loss your competitors will only be too happy to gain.

Learn more about our server application solutions and discover a better way to comply with regulations.

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

?

Advert-Book-UK

amazon.co.uk

?

Advert-Book-USA

amazon.com

Contact Us

  • (+353)(0)1-443-3807 – IRL
  • (+44)(0)20-7193-9751 – UK

Check our similar posts

Saving Energy Step 2 ? More Practical Ideas

In my previous blog, we wrote about implementing a management system. This boils down to sharing a common vision up and down and across the organisation, measuring progress, and pinning accountability on individuals. This time, we would like to talk about simple things that organisations can do to shrink their carbon footprints. But first let’s talk about the things that hold us back.

When we take on new clients we sometimes find that they are baffled by what I call energy industry-speak. We blame this partly on government. We understand they need clear definitions in their regulations. It’s just a pity they don’t use ordinary English when they put their ideas across in public forums.

Consultants sometimes seem to take advantage of these terms, when they roll words like audit, assessment, diagnostic, examination, survey and review across their pages. Dare we suggest they are trying to confuse with jargon? We created ecoVaro to demystify the energy business. Our goal is to convert data into formats business people understand. As promised, here are five easy things your staff could do without even going off on training.

  1. Right-size equipment? outsource peak production in busy periods, rather than wasting energy on a system that is running at half capacity mostly.
  2. Re-Install equipment to OEM specifications ? individual pieces of equipment need accurate interfacing with larger systems, to ensure that every ounce of energy delivers on its promise.
  3. Maintain to specification ? make sure machine tools are within limits, and that equipment is well-lubricated, optimally adjusted and running smoothly.
  4. Adjust HVAC to demand ? Engineers design heating and ventilation systems to cope with maximum requirements, and not all are set up to adapt to quieter periods. Try turning off a few units and see what happens.
  5. Recover Heat ? Heat around machines is energy wasted. Find creative ways to recycle it. If you can’t, then insulate the equipment from the rest of the work space, and spend less money cooling the place down.

Well that wasn’t rocket science, was it? There are many more things that we can do to streamline energy use, and coax our profits up. This is as true in a factory as in the office and at home. The power we use is largely non-renewable. Small savings help, and banknotes pile up quickly.

How Internal Auditors can win The War against Spreadsheet Fraud

To prevent another round of million dollar scandals due to fraudulent manipulations on spreadsheets, regulatory bodies have launched major offensives against these well-loved User Developed Applications (UDAs). Naturally, internal auditors are front and center in carrying out these offensives.

While regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Dodd-Frank Act, and Solvency II can only be effective if end users are able to carry out the activities and practices required of them, auditors need to ascertain that they have. Sad to say, when it comes to spreadsheets, that is easier said than done.

Because spreadsheets are loosely distributed by nature, internal auditors always find it hard to: locate them, identify ownership, and trace their relationships with other spreadsheets. Now, we’re still talking about naturally occurring spreadsheets. How much more with files that have been deliberately tampered?

Spreadsheets can be altered in a variety of ways, especially if the purpose is to conceal fraudulent activities. Fraudsters can, for instance:

  • hide columns or rows,
  • perform conditional formatting, which changes the appearance of cells depending on certain values
  • replace cell entries with false values either through direct input or by linking to other spreadsheet sources
  • apply small, incremental changes in multiple cells or even spreadsheets to avoid detection
  • design macros and user defined functions to carry out fraudulent manipulations automatically

Recognising the seemingly insurmountable task ahead, the Institute of Internal Auditors released a guide designed specifically for the task of auditing user-developed applications, which of course includes spreadsheets.

But is this really the weapon internal auditors should be wielding in their quest to bring down spreadsheet fraud? Our answer is no. In fact, we believe no such weapon has to be wielded at all?because the only way to get rid of spreadsheet fraud is to eliminate spreadsheets once and for all.

Imagine how easy it would be for internal auditors to conduct their audits if data were kept in a centralised server instead of being scattered throughout the organisation in end-user hard drives.

And that’s not all. Because a server-based solution can be configured to have its own built-in controls, all your data will be under lock and key; unlike spreadsheet-based systems wherein storing a spreadsheet file inside a password-protected workstation does not guarantee equal security for all the other spreadsheets scattered throughout your company.

Learn more about Denizon’s server application solutions and discover a more efficient way for your internal auditors to carry out their jobs.

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

?

Advert-Book-UK

amazon.co.uk

?

Advert-Book-USA

amazon.com

 

Firewalls

There are two main reasons why some companies are hesitant to plug into the Internet.

  1. They know they’ll be exposing their company data to outside attacks from malicious individuals and malware.
  2. They fear their employees might get too many distractions: games, porn, chats, videos, and even social networking sites.

One vital component for your overall security strategy against such concerns? A firewall.

A firewall can block unauthorised access to certain Internet services from inside your organisation as well as prevent unauthenticated access from the outside. It is also used to monitor users’ activities while they were online.

In an enterprise setting, one may expect a collection of firewalls either for providing layered protection or segmenting off different units in the organisation. Some areas only need a standard line of defence while others require more restrictions. As such, certain firewalls may have different configurations compared to others.

Naturally, the more intricate an organisation’s defence requirements get, the more complex the task of monitoring, testing and configuring the firewalls becomes. That’s why we’re here to help.

  • We’ll evaluate your network as well as the security requirements of each department under your organisation to determine which firewall architecture is most suitable.
  • To achieve maximum efficiency, we’ll point out where each firewall should be positioned.
  • We’ll work with your key personnel to make sure all firewall configurations are set and optimised with your business rules in mind.
  • If a large number of firewalls are required, we’ll help you set up a firewall configuration management system.
  • Firewalls should be regularly tested and assessed to ensure they are in line with the organisation’s security policies. We’ll perform these routine tasks as well.

Firewalls aren’t very good at defending against sophisticated viruses. There are much better solutions for malware-related vulnerabilities, and we can help you in that regard too.

Other defences we’re capable of putting up include:

Ready to work with Denizon?