Friday, February 22, 2013

Spreadsheets as systems ... not always such a good idea

I came across a recent Forbes blog post about the shortcomings of spreadsheets. This is something we've addressed here, as well, and seeing it inspired me to once again add some comments.

This post mentions the apparent use of spreadsheets to calculate Value at Risk (VaR). It speaks of the process being "time consuming," which is one of the problems I typically identify in their the use as "systems" (other problems include them being error prone (also mentioned here), cumbersome, and that they're not databases, thus getting to the data is a challenge).

The post references the need for rules, and yes, we've touched on that, too. Firms should have policies in place to ensure that spreadsheets' use is controlled and monitored, just as any other system would be. Sadly, the rules aren't always followed.

The Spaulding Group's operations review includes an assessment of the use of spreadsheets. While the Excel is very powerful, using it for "systems" can create huge problems.

The piece references various software that firms can use in conjunction with Excel. One, XLeratorDB, extends the spreadsheet logic into SQL, which may prove a good solution for some. We will explore this, and other software, in the coming months. We'll let you know what we discover.


  1. Dave, Agree extend the discussion a bit...there are also serious control risks that arise from the use of spreadsheets for financial reporting. Accuracy, completeness, ability to override, version control...the works. We see this all the time and need to assess the risk of material misstatement (whether because of error or fraud) in performing financial statement and internal control audits (SOX).


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