Internal Audit Taskforce

"Seeing the wood for the trees"

Management of Spreadsheet Risks

Bernard Ramsden who undertakes this activity, is an experienced IT consultant who specialises in delivering complex business systems related to estimating, forecasting, modeling and statistical analysis. In the course of this work he has acquired extensive insight into addressing the risks associated with spreadsheets.

Over the last thirty years spreadsheets have brought immense benefits, empowering the end user with the ability to create applications with the minimum of delay and without recourse to expensive IT specialists. As organisations become more and more dependent on spreadsheets, however, they are exposed to a range of attendant risks which can offer a very real threat to the integrity of their data.

Common issues which arise include:

  • The construction and special features being inadequately documented, so that spreadsheets can become difficult to maintain, and unstable as a result of change.
  • Lack of adequate back-up in case of loss or destruction. .
  • Management being unaware of the extent or nature of the spreadsheets upon which their businesses depend. .
  • Spreadsheets becoming the exclusive ‘property’ of particular staff members who may control and change them at will and can leave the organization, taking their knowledge with them. .
  • Inappropriate use of spreadsheets in cases where the complexity of the data justifies the use of more sophisticated programming tools. .
  • Poor disciplines surrounding the downloading of data from key application systems to spreadsheets (such as failure to check control totals to ensure completeness and accuracy) Loss of privacy and confidentiality through sensitive data migrating from a properly protected database into a spreadsheet environment. .
  • Low levels of end user spreadsheet skills and training resulting in inefficient or unreliable spreadsheet applications. .

IAT are one of the very few organizations offering health checks and solutions in relation to spreadsheet risks, and use a carefully designed check-list and questionnaire to achieve speedy and cost-effective results for the client.