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BI Program Business Mistake 2 - Spreadsheets

Managers Desire To Manipulate Data

Most business managers have been using spreadsheets of tabulated data for years, they are comfortable with being able to see all the data components that combine to make the total. They are also comfortable with being able to manipulate the data and find it very uncomfortable to have this capability removed.

Browser-based interfaces to BI applications making it a lot easier for business users to understand and use BI tools, however it takea time for managers to move from their comfort zone of spreadsheets to graphical interfaces. The level of trust in the data underneath the advanced visualization takes time to develop, even when the tabulated data previously used is proven to be incorrect.

Spreadsheets used for planning and budgeting are very risky. The numbers are too easily 'manipulated'. Minor tweaks to calculations or definitions generally cause problems both downstream and upstream in terms of time and effort to reconcile conflicting information.

Spreadsheets are inherently uncontrollable. They offer no reliable audit trail and lack both referential integrity and data integrity. Inadequate security features rarely restrict unauthorized access. Use of them encourages “islands of information,” which undermines the promise of business intelligence.

Poor information, leads to poor decision making, and poor results. In addition, organizations that operate with multiple versions of the truth risk violating Sarbanes-Oxley and other compliance legislation.


Business Solution

  1. Use compliance regulations, such as the Sarbanes- Oxley Act, as an opportunity to educate business users about the risks posed by the widespread use of spreadsheets, proliferating data silos and unclear ownership of performance data.
  2. Remind users that “multiple versions of the truth” exposes the organisation to serious criminal charges of data manipulation, information hoarding and data filtering.
  3. Ban the use of spreadsheets for formal reporting and management meetings.
  4. Use SOX compliance as a catalyst to modernize inefficient processes.


IT Solution

  1. Use SOX compliance as a catalyst to improve the partnership of IT with the business.
  2. Sarbanes-Oxley, provides the economic justification for upgrading substandard information systems and processes. Regain efficiency with more re-engineered IT processes, formal controls, implementation of ITIL technology to automate many IT processes.
  3. Business Intelligence solutions must integrate planning, budgeting, and forecasting helping organizations to manage compliance and performance in a single, unified approach, and gaining greater control over all of the underlying data.
  4. BI solutions help Finance identify opportunities and analyze trends in a single, easy to use purpose-built solution.

Next: BI Program Business Mistake 3 - Big Bang

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