The cloud a replacement for spreadsheets


It is surprising how many firms are so dependent upon the use of excel spreadsheets.  Operational risk managers often use them to complete their critical risk assessments with a proliferation of red amber greens.  Whole finance teams may carry out their daily calculations and reconciliations using complex formulas in excel with many tens or even hundreds of thousands of lines taking hours to complete their tasks such that they may have to be left to run overnight so the user can pick them up in the morning.
There seems to be total ignorance that excel is essentially designed as a small business tool or for use in a home situation for basic budgeting and not the finances of large financial services firms dealing in many millions.  I have also heard the stories of spreadsheets crashing and causing chaos.  Even when they are backed up the loss of a whole days data can not only be a cause of considerable cost and rework they can also lead to regulatory breaches that may lead to fines and expensive remedial work and enforcement action.
However spreadsheets are within the remit of users outside of IT and enable basic systems and databases to be set up without the delays and constraints that IT departments can put in the way.  Similar issues can arise with Access databases which offer similar advantages to excel albeit users often do not understand how to change them and require support which is often not available.  Someone in the team creates the database then leaves the company and the users continue to operate it unsupported for many years.
With cloud technology it is also possible to step outside the constraints of IT and achieve a much better solution in a similar timescale to setting up an Access database or Excel spreadsheet.  Cloud based technologies can also provide a more stable database environment designed to cope with the job and provide faster results in a much more robust environment.
A lot of larger organisation with group functions also use Microsoft applications across several legal entities that may ofter operate different versions of the software making it impossible for a travelling executive to log in across different firms.  The cloud solves this problem by giving access to a risk or finance database with simple access to the internet only required.
There is no need to have a detailed understanding of Access or Excel and an archive of material that can record each entry may all be held without the risk of crashes and sudden catastrophic loss of data.
More firms should abandon their love of spreadsheets and design something quickly and efficiently that can be obtained anywhere in the world through the internet.  The underlying data can all sit on their own systems without IT departments having to delay implementation or get bogged down in programme management that can choke developments before they even get started.
Published: August 2013
By: Anthony Smith

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