Excel Risk and Time Wasted – a Shortage of Hard Disk Space

How a shortage of server hard drive space can cause spreadsheet errors and waste time in an environment that will never have enough time.

Yesterday I discussed the data collection aspect of this project. This resulted in an interesting comment by Patrick O’Beirne which is included below.

It’s probably safer than simply accepting the spreadsheet returns. Admittedly data entry may give rise to transcription errors but at least there is quality control on the input.

Heaven knows what the submitters did with their data – they may have changed the spreadsheets. It is well known for example that copy/paste bypasses cell validation, so retyping is a validation step.

I’ve seen a case like this in a UK public body receiving returns on spreadsheets. Even by building in many checks the data quality was still problematic so part of my recommendation – as well as auditing their spreadsheets and finding other errors – was to replace the spreadsheet data collection system by a form-filling application.

Patrick as you have identified, this approach to data collection and consolidation is fraught with problems. Over time the task is to transform the entire spreadsheet system into a database system that reports into Excel.

The first phase of the transformation is to deal with the hard drive space crises that are plaguing head office.

When the data comes from the regions it has to populate a series of spreadsheets that cascade one into the other. When this cascading spreadsheet model is linked there is not enough space on the server hard disk to contain the model.

Additional server capacity can only fall into next year’s budget. Also, this department and another might merge sometime next year. Then, both departments IT hardware needs will be considered and rationalized as a whole.

As a result of this, the spreadsheets have to stay as standalone units and the data cut and pasted manually from one worksheet to another.

The top-notch team that produces the reporting packs for the department is under severe time and workload pressure. Weekends are working days. Their leave requests keep getting turned down.

They breathed a major sigh of relief when they heard about the private banking benchmarking projected we had been involved in. The bank produced a 240meg spreadsheet each month. When the model had been rebuilt, 20 months of data only took 6meg of space. The data was then published out of the database into an identical looking spreadsheet that takes less than a meg. In addition to that, they have full BI analytics on the data.

Interesting how reducing spreadsheet risk, errors and fraud can give someone their personal life back. Patrick, it is probably an aspect of the business that you enjoy seeing as well.

About the author:

An author of this post is Sherry Edwards – editor and journalist at bpm’online. She explores the frontiers of leadership, innovation, education, and careers. If you want to know more about what is CRM system stands for, you can easily contact her. In her works, she combines big ideas of business innovations and bold examples in ways that inspire campus and business audiences.