The disadvantages of spreadsheets: security

In the following mini-series I’m going to write about the shortcomings spreadsheets often have compared to resource management software and how it can affect your organization. In light of this, I find it only appropriate to start off with a topic that is the most important of them all.

Let me first start off by explaining what I mean by ‘security’.
According to various definitions, the word basically means to be free from danger or threat. In terms of professional security I think the best way to describe it is making sure your data is exactly where it needs to be – in your possession.

There are several measures to ensure that, but then again locks and keys were not made for honest fingers. Keeping that in mind, if you have a more suitable solution at you disposal, I recommend you take it.

The other thing I would be most concerned about (if I was a spreadsheet user) is who has access to the file or files. I’m not talking about enterprise-scale sabotage (although It's possible), but about errors and mistakes people often make, when working with spreadsheets.

Granted, mistakes made in a spreadsheet-generated Gantt charts, used by only a handful of people, are easily managed and the ‘damage’ is most likely limited to a visit to the superior’s office and a couple of apologies to your clients.

However, if the charts stretch between different time-zone’s, clients and levels all over the globe, the result of that tiny mistake can be a lot worse.

And then there are ‘mistakes’ a.k.a. frauds. 

The easiest way to minimize the possibility of a fraud is not to let it happen. That’s the golden rule. And whatever business you’re in, just use a specialized app for that - the guys behind the app are usually represented by a small company, that’s worst nightmare is to get bad publicity due to some ‘misunderstandings’ in the program, i.e. the app providers are usually more motivated to prevent difficult issues from occurring.

Many apps have a logfile-feature built into them so every change is logged, saved and stored in a secure location.

So if anyone is able to make unwanted changes in your tool, you will at least know about it.


Next week I’ll write about how teamwork can be inhibited due to using spreadsheets. Thanks for reading!

By Indrek Kuldkepp