ALWAYS FIT-FOR-PURPOSE OR THE SPREADSHEET AS SECOND BEST?

ALWAYS FIT-FOR-PURPOSE OR THE SPREADSHEET AS SECOND BEST?

Patrick O’Beirne considers whether the humble spreadsheet is always ‘fit-for-purpose’

data_analysis

It has been said that the spreadsheet is the ‘second best’ way to do any data processing. In their professional training, many practitioners would recognise common line-of-business applications like accounting and payroll packages. That said, for personal or departmental use, and lacking any well-known application package, many will immediately resort to a spreadsheet.

Inexorably then, having started with a spreadsheet and reaching a satisfactory and tolerable situation where the spreadsheet provides enough automated assistance to be useful, the temptation is of course to stick with what you know, and not to look for a more organised and efficient method or solution given the requirements of the particular data processing task at hand.

Now, given that you know what the spreadsheet can do for you, and the time it takes to maintain it, you should also look in the marketplace for specific applications that can automate what you still have to do manually. Look for those applications that are slicker in operation, absolutely secure, able to handle any volumes of data required, and come with all the built-in tools for cleaning and managing the data, flagging items for attention, performing reconciliations, and printing reports in many different layouts.

The Spreadsheet is of course a seminal end-user computing application of the 20th century. If you’re still using a spreadsheet for timesheets & to-do lists, inventory management, forecasting, budgeting, statistical analysis, graphical data exploration, or collaborative data sharing, [and we know that many millions of you are!], it could still be worth looking at other applications for a particular task, in order not to miss out on some real productivity gains.

Spreadsheet Safe Programme
Syllabus Reference
1.1.1.1    Determine that a spreadsheet application is fit for the proposed purpose.

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