Why You Shouldn’t Use Spreadsheets to Run Public Works Operations
Simple and easy to use, spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel have their uses. They can be ideal for certain small or personal projects, and for business tasks such as keeping accounting records. However, they have many limitations, particularly when it comes to public works operations. With infrastructure assets such as water treatment facilities, sewer lines, roads, utility grids, bridges, and railways, spreadsheets are often not robust enough for data management and analysis.
Here are 8 reasons why you shouldn’t be using spreadsheets to run public works operations.
Incorrect Data and Reports
Spreadsheets consist of cells into which data is entered manually. There is an infinite possibility for human error and mistakes. Any user can easily change the contents of a cell, delete information, or enter the wrong formula accidentally – or intentionally. The statistics speak for themselves; research has shown that nearly 90% of spreadsheet documents contain errors. The results could be incorrect, leading to inaccurate information and reports – which are then used in critical business making decisions.
No Audit Trail or History
When an error is spotted, it can be extremely difficult and time-consuming to track down how and where it occurred, and to, therefore, put it right. If multiple spreadsheets and departments are involved, it becomes even more difficult – or impossible – to find the source of the error.
Lack of Control
Since spreadsheets are emailed to users across departments, security is a major problem. There is a lack of control as to who can access them and make changes. Duplicate versions can be created containing incorrect or out-dated data, and these, in turn, can be quickly duplicated and distributed. Additional copies end up being stored in various places under different names and run the risk of being accessed by unauthorized people.
Spreadsheets can be easily corrupted and are very susceptible to viruses. It is also easy to steal data, both within the organization and externally. Using cloud-based applications is the best way to control access to key business data and to obtain reliable backup processes which will also safeguards against data hacking or loss.
With any software that has to be manually saved and backed up, there is potential for disaster. On top of this, if multiple users are making changes to a spreadsheet at the same time, work can easily be lost when one person hits the Save button.
Inefficient and Disruptive
Spreadsheets are an inefficient way to handle large volumes of data. As they grow in size across the organization, they become slower. Clumsy to scale, interrelated data is spread throughout the document, and consolidating and summarizing information is a time-consuming task. They have to be physically emailed to individual users and it becomes confusing to work out which is the latest version. You can end up with multiple versions and someone will then have the job of consolidating the data from the various versions into one master spreadsheet.
Difficult for Others to Understand
Spreadsheets are extremely easy to personalize. This might be great for a single user, but it means that these documents can be difficult for others to understand and use, which can be a major problem for public works departments.
As well as problems with security and data integrity, a spreadsheet is one-dimensional and it doesn’t understand the organization of your business. A tried and tested method of recording and analyzing information, spreadsheets are not suitable for public works operations to manage their large-scale operations. It is important to move with the times and take advantage of new technology to track statistical information.