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Spreadsheet + Human Being = Disaster

Sarah Verge - February 28, 2019

Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth recently amended the loss they’d reported for the nine months ended 31 December 2018 from $69,006 to $155,154. According to their press release, “The correction was made due to a formula error in the spreadsheet supporting the year to date Adjusted EBITDA loss calculation.”

Late last year, Japan’s immigration bill was delayed due to Excel errors in the analysis of the data collected about foreign interns who’d left their jobs.

Earlier in 2018, Conviality (Bargain Booze’s owner) collapsed after an “arithmetic error” on a spreadsheet resulted in it exaggerating its wholesale profits by more than £5 million.

Oops.

Spreadsheet + Human Being = Disaster

In my opinion, the spreadsheets I design are things of beauty: lean, efficient, elegant and, of course, accurate…

...but, just like good taste, although we all think we have it, the truth is rather different. In fact, the majority of large spreadsheets are riddled with errors. Last month I realised that one of mine was picking up a static rather than a dynamic range of source data for a pivot table, which is still causing me the odd palpitation when I think what might have happened to my management accounts if I hadn’t spotted it.

So, should we abandon spreadsheets altogether? I don’t think that’s the answer, but we do need to use them wisely, audit them carefully and treat the output with a healthy scepticism. If there’s a solution specially designed to help you achieve what you’d like your spreadsheet to do - whether that’s CRM, accounts or event management - then it will almost always be more reliable, easier to use and a more efficient use of time than using Excel or Google Sheets.

ArtifaxEvent is purpose-built for handling the large quantities of data needed for running venues and events in an effective and structured way, avoiding the duplication and errors to which spreadsheets are prone. However, at my personal request, we have an Excel Toolbar add-on, so that those of us who can’t countenance weaning ourselves off spreadsheets can slice and dice data pulled in automatically from ArtifaxEvent to their heart’s content.

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Author

Sarah Verge

Sarah is an accountant with a background in IT. In her spare time, she advises Sistema England, a music charity and is an ISPA committee member. She is a regular theatre and concert-goer: jukebox musicals are her guilty pleasure.

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