Many Organisations have made a massive investment in spreadsheet technology.
The justification has been simple…
Deliver a desktop tool to “the business” and use it to perform a variety of business optimisation tasks.
Microsoft Excel Everywhere!
There are an estimated 1.2 billion Excel users worldwide.
Used almost everywhere a financial calculation is needed, users define custom formulae to calculate everything from a simple quarterly forecast to a full corporate annual report. It is this flexibility that makes Excel highly appealing.
Beyond financial calculations, Excel is also used widely for organising information and tracking almost everything from sales leads and project status reports to invoicing and contact lists.
The widespread use of Excel spreadsheets has come about for a variety of reasons, including
- Difficulties in getting computer system changes made, making it a useful tool for creating workarounds;
- It becomes the “go to” app when the business computer systems don’t have reporting functionality needed;
- Generally, it is a very user-friendly tool that is part of the standard Microsoft suite, so “everyone” has access;
- It is easier to justify turning to Excel than to invest in additional software that may get limited use;
- When senior managers want scenario analysis, planning and reporting, (with millions of hours of video tutorials to be found online) it is quick to get started with; and
- Simulations or comparative studies can easily be developed in Excel.
But, what happens when a tools’ use becomes so widespread within an organisation that the business begins experiencing challenges?
The Challenges of Scaling Complex Spreadsheets
If you’ve been using spreadsheet technology within your business for any period of time or have seen an explosive growth in the use of spreadsheet applications and data, then you’ll be familiar with the problems associated with Spreadsheet Risk.
Spreadsheet Risk is the impact on a business caused by undetected mistakes, errors and omissions in vital spreadsheets that the business depends on for decision-making.
Studies found errors in 88% of spreadsheets used for critical business metrics and decision-making. Errors introduced over time by stakeholders who inherit ownership and management of the spreadsheet; and weren’t part of the initial design and development of it.
Though a majority of errors are the result of human mistakes, there are a number of specific ways that Spreadsheet Risk can occur –
- Linked spreadsheets – the use of active links between workbooks and other types of applications and databases, where updates over time may cause links to break and no documentation or processes exist to manage the links.
- Version control – multiple versions of a spreadsheet in circulation across a company (and potentially across the supply chain) with inadequate version management and distribution controls.
- Single step formulas – as a business or the analysis need becomes more complex, a calculation may grow, causing the logic within the workbook, or set of spreadsheets, to become more and more complicated. This creates a dependency on those individuals who know how to use and update the spreadsheet and more specifically the formula designer.
- Magic cells – the creation of “magic cells” by users who “know” the end result they need but can’t get the data flow to work as expected, creates hidden glitches that advanced and expert users may not be able to “debug”. Resulting in miscalculations and unreliable outputs.
- One-user-per-workbook – restricted user access to a spreadsheet can create process bottlenecks, inefficient workarounds, and a vicious cycle of uncontrolled spreadsheet distribution, especially when a particular workbook has value for many different parts of the business.
- Size and speed – The more complexity there is in a workbook the slower the speed of calculations and the larger the file size of the spreadsheet. Tying up increasing amounts of disk storage on computing resources, compounding as the spreadsheet is saved on more and more local devices.
Web Enabled Spreadsheets – Built for a Purpose
Semantia developed the Excel Calculation Engine (XCE) to specifically solve a real-world business problem for our client – PrixCar Transport.
Being reliant on a large complex spreadsheet for quoting meant sharing the Excel worksheets with staff and customers was difficult, yet essential.
Operating in an extremely competitive industry also meant that the business was subjected to regular pricing updates. Making it nearly impossible to scale their business at the pace they wanted.
Furthermore, sharing spreadsheets meant sharing competitive assets and intellectual property – their pricing calculations and formula. It became obvious that this couldn’t go on and a way was needed a way to protect our client’s IP.
What Semantia created not only exceeded our client’s expectations, it also incorporated a number of significant, breakthrough technological features:
- Multi-user access to underlying spreadsheet calculations using web browser technology;
- Single instance of the spreadsheet engine allowing strict version control and distribution;
- High output performance. A single spreadsheet capable of performing thousands of calculations per second;
- A highly scalable solution both vertically and horizontally;
- Our XDK Technology™ means never missing a calculation (with dual drive failover support to keep everything running 24×7).
XCE was first installed at PrixCar Transport in July 2015. Three years later; in July 2018 it was supporting more than 1,600 registered users across more than 650 partner companies. Running for more than 45,000 hours uninterrupted, processing more than 1,200,000 spreadsheet calculations.
The web enabled spreadsheet gave PrixCar Transport the ability to have a self-service quoting form on their website. Expanding their B2B operations to supporting B2C customers to create a new revenue channel.
Making Your Spreadsheet Web Enabled
Calc123 is a lean version of XCE, offering all the technology features and benefits of it’s parent application in a service that is lower cost, has greater interface flexibility (web, mobile, API and more) and has client Admin controls for you to manage spreadsheet versions and publication.
If you make use of spreadsheets in your business, you’ll want to know about web enabling your spreadsheets with Calc123.com.