Data-driven Decisions a Best Practice, but Still Not Mainstream

Michael Vizard

One of the core issues that plagues most companies is their over reliance on spreadsheets to run the business. The spreadsheet is probably one of the greatest applications ever invented. But like most things, too much of any one thing is invariably a bad thing.

In the case of the spreadsheet, so much business activity is tracked on spreadsheets that it becomes almost impossible to do any meaningful analysis. And from a compliance perspective, trying to audit conflicting spreadsheet data that is wrapped up in all kinds of undocumented macro code can be a nightmare.

For these reasons, providers of business intelligence applications have been arguing that companies should rely less on spreadsheets. But end users are deeply attached to their spreadsheet applications and resist any effort to move them away from their spreadsheets. This will be doubly true as Microsoft contines to embedd more BI capabilities into its Excel spreadsheet.

But ActionBase, in partnership with ClusterSeven, announced today a way to bridge the spreadsheet divide when it comes to compliance. ActionBase, which provides workflow management software, and ClusterSeven, which provides spreadsheet management software, are creating a joint offering that provides a way to overlay a compliance framework on a plethora of Microsoft Excel spreadsheet applications.

According to ActionBase's Jacob Ukelson, the real challenge is to create a framework for compliance that doesn't get in the way of how people want to work. Requiring them to first, pay for, and then master a new application will always be met with a high degree of resistance. Instead, Ukelson argues that the IT department must come up with ways to meet compliance requirements without imposing unnatural ways of accomplishing tasks.

That doesn't mean that IT organizations shouldn't use other tools such as business intelligence applications, adds ClusterSeven director Henry Umney. But it does mean that IT organizations need to recognize that spreadsheets will always be part of the workflow process, he notes.

The tension between compliance requirements and productivity has always been a corporate issue. But time and again, it seems like productivity always trumps compliance. So rather than fight a losing battle, the better part valor is to find a way to do what needs to be done from a compliance perspective in the most unobtrusive way possible.

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