The Problem With Spreadsheets For Enterprise Mobility

The Problem With Spreadsheets For Enterprise Mobility

The Problem With Spreadsheets For Enterprise Mobility
Pic: CraigMoulding/Flickr

A blog post inspired by a conversation with Nick Hession at MobileFrame

Spreadsheets are everywhere, in every business of every size and in all manner of situations. In one business I worked in the joke was that if it cost $1 to open an excel file the corporation would be bankrupt.

Along with word processing spreadsheets became one of the first killer apps for early IBM compatible and Apple II machines in the late seventies and early eighties.  Although not the first VisiCalc sold over a million copies throughout its history. This ended practically overnight when in 1983 Lotus launched 1-2-3 . They ended up buying what was left of VisiCalc and closing it down.

So What’s The Problem With Spreadsheets For Enterprise Mobility

Adding up, creating a report or easy to view chart of simple row and column data is straightforward. For those managing mobile workers where schedules, parts, invoicing, addresses deliveries and a host of other variables exist coping with all the data is more of a challenge.

There is a point at which productivity is the primary reason a spreadsheet becomes the most effective way to manage a set of data rather than a manual ledger. Beyond this there is another stage when more people get involved the file is passed around edited posted in a folder and then re-edited. Frustration takes over when errors start to creep in and time gets burnt finding and correcting mistakes.

Peter Schroer CEO of Aras wrote in Wired.

“As rapidly as business needs change, so too must the data / process models and business rules that support them. Defining a static data model and writing programs against it no longer works because as soon as IT delivers it the system is out of date and needs to be changed again. IT can’t deliver, so what do end-users do? They create the work-around, a.k.a. the Excel spreadsheet. It’s the corporate cure-all.”

Four Common Spreadsheet Problems

  • Erroneous data entry.
  • Anyone can easily change data and formulas.
  • Spreadsheets do not scale well.
  • Compliance problems for inspection and audit.
  • No support for unstructured data.

According to new research commissioned by ClusterSeven. More than half of accountants said that the frequency of errors found on spreadsheets is either “very high” or “fairly high”, while almost three quarters ranked “spreadsheet risk” as a major business risk. Two thirds believe it is likely that over the next two years a large company in the UK will suffer financial and potential reputation loss due to spreadsheet based process  failure.

From our discussions with managers managing remote workers we estimate that on average someone in the organisation is likely to be spending 12 hours per month consolidating modifying and correcting spreadsheets. That’s around a day and a half per month or 5 to 10 percent of their time just maintaining these spreadsheets. Spreadsheet denial is a big issue for many.

So when many are coming to us looking to justify a mobility deployment on a 20% efficiency saving this has just identified half of it. That’s before the mobile worker processes themselves have been reviewed !

Two Solutions

It’s a spreadsheet right, so it cannot be that difficult to gather data and mange ?

  1. Find employees that are better at using spreadsheets than your current staff and will do it instantly at no cost and with zero impact on their current workload.
  2. Abandon the spreadsheets and convert them into data driven mobile apps using MobileFrame. This approach will allow the creation and management of apps that map your workflow have a “write once, deploy anywhere” theme and handle data integration with other back-end solutions and cut reports automatically on industry standard SQL or Oracle databases.

The Problem With Spreadsheets For Enterprise MobilityBook a meeting or webinar about how we can help reduce the burden of spreadsheets on the management of mobile workers. Each attendee gets a “I heart spreadsheets mug”