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Although spreadsheets date to 1960s and the very dawn of the computing age, they are one of the tools of business that have changed little over the years. The first digital spreadsheets organised information input by the user, and although far more complicated and with many more functions, this is still essentially what they do today. Today, over 70% of organisations depend on Excel spreadsheets for collecting data across their business.
This basic input, organisation, filtering and output is why the humble spreadsheet is so successful, and has found its way into nearly every facet of business. However, this is also one of its major weaknesses – the reliance on human input. As we know, computer code merely executes the command of the user, but if the data is incorrect, the result will be also. The combination of such wide spreadsheet use and human error has led to some spectacular miscalculations, and ones that have cost businesses millions in revenue.
For example, in 2012 an employee at JP Morgan was using spreadsheets to create value-at-risk (VaR) models. They copied the wrong information from one spreadsheet and pasted it into another, and the resulting model grossly understated the company’s risk and was a major factor in its $6 billion trading loss!
This shows just how easy it is for a small error to multiply into a huge result, and our infographic below highlights many more examples! These issues can be further compounded by poorly automated spreadsheets which can scale errors at an alarming rate. All too often it's down to not having Excel VBA training, which underpins any serious attempt at setting up spreadsheet automation. We've also included some information on how you can improve your own spreadsheet protocols, and avoid making the same mistakes in your own projects. You can also take our Microsoft Excel training to learn how to make your spreadsheet mistakes-free.
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