Spreadsheet Woes – Limited Features For Easy Adoption of a Control Framework

Like it or not, regulations are here to stay and for a company to comply with them, its IT and financial systems will have to be equipped with a suitable control framework. One common stumbling block to such an implementation is a company?s over-reliance on spreadsheets.

Why is it so difficult to adopt controls for a system that’s reliant on spreadsheets? To understand this, let’s pinpoint some of the strongest, most powerful attributes of these User Developed Applications (UDA).

By nature, spreadsheets are the epitome of simplicity: easy to develop, easily accessible and easily altered. All computers in your workplace will most likely have them and everyone in your organization may be sharing them, making their own versions, and storing them in personal folders.

Sad to say though, these strengths are also control weaknesses and constitute the very reasons why spreadsheets require effective risk management.

Easy to develop. Being easy to develop, most spreadsheet systems are created by non-IT users who have limited knowledge on best control practices. Being constantly under time pressure, these ?developers? may also relegate documentation, security, and data verification to the back burner in favour of coming up with a timely report.

Easy to access. Information in a spreadsheet can be opened by practically anyone within the organization?s network. Who accessed what? And when? If anything goes wrong, it would be difficult to identify the culprit, and the failure to pinpoint responsibility for erroneous data could lead to bigger, more costly mistakes.

Easy to alter. Lastly, if the information is easy to access, then it can also be easily altered, consequently making reports more prone to both accidental errors and fraudulent modifications.

The rise of multimillion dollar scandals due to accidental and intentional spreadsheet errors have prompted regulatory bodies to publish guidelines for mitigating spreadsheet-associated risks. These controls include:

  • Change control
  • Version control
  • Access control
  • Input
  • Security and data integrity
  • Documentation
  • Development life cycle
  • Backup and archiving
  • Logic inspection/Testing
  • Segregation of duties/roles, and procedures
  • Analytics

In theory, these controls should be able to bring down risks considerably. However, because of the inherent nature of spreadsheets, such controls are rarely implemented effectively in the real world.

Take for example Security and Data Integrity. One of the most common causes of spreadsheet error is due to ?hardwiring?. This happens when values are inadvertently entered into a formula cell, naturally changing the logic of the spreadsheet.

As a way of control, cell locking can be applied on the formula cells to prevent users without the proper authority from making any changes. However, when reporting deadlines approach drawing spreadsheets to the forefront of data processing, more people are given access rights to the locked cells. Ironically, it is during these crunch times, when errors are most likely to happen.

Because the built-in features of a spreadsheet support none of the controls mentioned above, some companies are tempted to purchase control-enabling programs for spreadsheets just to continue using them for financial reporting. But although these programs can integrate the required controls, you?d still be interacting with the same complex and outdated interface: the spreadsheets.

Thus, these band-aid solutions may not suffice because the root cause of these problems are the spreadsheets themselves.

Learn more about our server application solutions and discover a better way to implement controls.

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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IT Risk and Control Solutions Specialists – Why you need them more than ever

Over the years, the capabilities of IT systems have certainly grown by leaps and bounds. But so have the risks that accompany them. Countless threats to IT systems now exist that are capable of seriously disrupting business operations. That’s why companies have to conduct assessments aimed at making sure their systems are still capable of functioning effectively, efficiently, and securely all the time.

If you think you’ve been lucky enough to be spared from these threats, then maybe it’s because you haven’t conducted a risk assessment on your IT system recently. All too often, we hear of CIOs who believed their IT system was in tip-top condition, only to be later caught off-guard by a critical system breakdown that would eventually cripple their business for days or weeks.

More information assets to look after

If, before, you only had to worry about regular office applications, workstations, a LAN and a server, today’s varied and more sophisticated information assets are more challenging to maintain.

In addition to network operating systems, database management systems, content management systems, email systems, virtualization platforms, document management systems, business intelligence applications, and accounting software, a typical enterprise may also have to look after firewalls, intrusion detection systems, storage and backup systems, and data loss prevention systems, to mention a few.

These understandably require the services of experts spanning a wide range of skill sets.

Rising threats to corporate identity and privacy

Individuals are no longer just the ones being preyed upon by identity thieves. Businesses can now be subject to corporate identity theft as well. You could wake up one day finding your business already accused of carrying out illegal activities, a big chunk of your money gone, and your directors? seats already occupied by complete strangers.

To make things worse, corporate threats aren’t just coming from the outside.

Threats to corporate privacy, for instance, can come from within the organisation itself. Sensitive information like trade secrets and financial data are often leaked out (purposely or inadvertently) by employees. This is largely caused by the ever growing number of options for communications and transferring data (e.g. emails, instant messaging, blogs, social networking sites, ftp, P2P, etc.).

Greater challenges in designing, developing, and implementing policies and programs

Laws and regulations like SOX and Solvency II, which have direct impacts on IT, are on the rise. That is why corporate policies and programs now require sweeping changes. You now have to be more deliberate in integrating IT when establishing governance, internal controls, change management, incident management, and performance management.

A solid understanding on widely accepted frameworks and good practices like COBIT, COSO, and CMMI will help you considerably in such undertakings. Using these frameworks as guidelines will not only help you keep your policies and programs attuned to the times, they will also keep you in compliance with regulations.

Increasing demand for disaster recovery and business continuity capabilities

Every time you have a down time, you increase the probability of losing your customers to competitors. The longer the down time, the greater that probability becomes. Therefore, when a major disruption strikes, you should be able to recover at the soonest. If possible, you should be able to deliver products and services as usual.

This of course requires spending to increase your disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) capabilities. Are you ready for it? Migrating your IT infrastructure from traditional systems to the latest technologies that are better equipped for BC/DR requires careful planning and implementation to ensure an optimal return on investment.

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The Future is Smarter with a Smart Meter

Traditionally, electricity and water meter consumption was measured via analogue meters. Utility billing was based on actual consumption units obtained from the meter by meter readers. This entailed physical visits to the metering point. Lots of challenges came with meter reading; talk of customers feeling their privacy is intruded, meter readers encountering hostile customers, dogs, closed gates. The result was estimated bills that were most often than not very high.

Smart meters can be dubbed as the ?next generation? type of meters. Smart meters send wireless electronic meter readings to one?s energy supplier automatically. There are both gas smart meters and electricity smart meters. Smart meters come with in-home displays, which give someone real-time feedback on their energy usage and the associated cost.

Smart meters communicate meter readings directly to utility companies therefore no one has to come to your home to read your meter; and neither are you required to submit meter readings yourself. This not only reduces costs, but leads to more accurate electricity bills practically eliminating estimated bills. Smart meters signal the end of estimated bills, and the end of overpaying or underpaying for energy.

Whereas a smart meter in itself does not save you money, the add-ons (in-home displays) that come with the smart meters and which give someone real-time feedback on their energy usage helps them to reduce the unnecessary energy use and this ultimately leads to better oversight into how to lower utility bills hence better management of one?s energy use.

In summary, a smart meter is a technology that enables energy consumers to see their energy as they use it, a technology where energy is displayed as it is being used and wireless ratings sent. Adoption of smart meters would mean the end of estimated energy bills.

Smart meters are also promising a smart future where all energy consuming devices can be connected to the internet and centrally controlled using computers or smartphones. This means one is able to switch off lights and other energy consuming devices from a central point, hence make savings and this will enable them to have greater control of their energy use, hence more comfort, convenience and life will be cheaper for all. This is the smarter future we are all looking forward to.

Reduce Cost and Improve Productivity

Whether the economy is in a downturn or not, management will always aim for a more cost effective IT solution. If your current IT infrastructure is hurting your profitability, our expertise is both ‘tested and proven”.? Also “bleeding edge” solutions in the industry will enable us to find inexpensive alternatives for you.

For instance, have you started to wonder whether having a constantly growing number of servers, many of which are underutilised, is really the norm? Well, that used to be the case. However, with the advent of virtualisation and replication, that expensive exercise is steadily becoming a thing of the past.

By implementing solutions powered by these two technologies, organisations can now manage excess storage capacities and hardware resources by performing simpler processes at lesser costs. In addition to that, using the same pair of technologies, companies can also decrease the downtime suffered during maintenance and upgrades.

Thus, at the end of the day, not only do companies stand to reduce expenditures, they can also boost revenues as a result of increased productivity time.

Do we still have other IT solutions that tackle a different set of problems but arrive at the same outcome, i.e. reduced costs + improved productivity = higher profits? You bet we do.

Basically, this is how we’ll help your company arrive at the same winning formula:

  • Provide insights as to where and when changes have to be made. Oftentimes, initiatives to reduce cost and improve productivity are not preceded by the appropriate study especially as with regards to their impact on all departments in the organisation. This usually results in unnecessary duplication of resources, a sure way to increase costs instead.
  • Consolidate and automate. We’ll work within your budget in finding ways to consolidate your applications, hardware, storage, databases, and processes. Then we’ll integrate automation practices to simplify management and maintenance of all these assets. This will substantially free not only your IT infrastructure but also your IT staff, giving them more opportunities to innovate.
  • Create an innovative environment. One of the benefits you gain in having room to innovate is the potential to discover new ways to drive costs even further. A fraction of your savings can then be used to develop even better IT solutions, thus creating a productive cycle: IT solutions > savings and innovation > better IT solutions. Our role is to help you harness your potentials to keep that cycle running.
  • Work to reduce carbon footprint in all your procedures. By ensuring that energy consumption is brought to a minimum in every step you take, you can rest assured that costs have only one way to go – down. Check out our Energy Management Software ecoVaro.

Find out how we can increase your efficiency even more:

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