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COVID-19: Remote Working Issues & How to Solve Them

by EASA Software in All Blog Posts, Spreadsheets

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing almost 60% of knowledge workers to do their jobs remotely, the future of work has well and truly arrived. Enterprise endpoints are scattered all over the place, leaving companies scrambling to optimize their technological architecture to ensure that their staff remain productive, and their valuable data secure. And with various analysts positing that remote working could become the new normal post-pandemic, the way we work may never be the same again. 

Beyond basic measures like providing the necessary equipment, and implementing cybersecurity measures, businesses will need to harness different solutions to overcome the challenges of working remotely. One ubiquitous business tool that can be particularly difficult to deploy securely to remote users is the spreadsheet. Business processes underpinned by spreadsheets – which may have been acceptable when working from the office – can quickly become unmanageable for users who are now working remotely. 

However, the most common issues that arise when using Excel remotely can be easily resolved using EASA’s software.

Remote working spreadsheet problems

Version confusion

Working remotely makes it more likely that multiple copies of spreadsheets will be saved by staff, which can make it difficult to identify the most current version. Additionally, the data in the spreadsheets exists only in flat files – often on remote users’ computers. The more frequently an Excel file is cloned, updated and circulated, the greater the uncertainty. As amended versions accumulate on users’ systems, there’s an increased risk that employees could work on, and exchange, out-of-date spreadsheets, which could cause serious problems for your business. The issues related to version confusion could be further exacerbated by the current remote working setup, as it’s much harder to maintain effective communication.

Proprietary data & intellectual property security

Spreadsheet collaboration could also unwittingly expose your company’s proprietary data and intellectual property. As Excel files must be emailed and copied between remote employees, it becomes extremely hard to guarantee that only authorized workers will have access to them, and this renders both your data and the business logic embedded in Excel vulnerable to hackers. This is made worse by the fact that your employees may be working from separate networks, hindering your ability to implement blanket cybersecurity measures for protecting your data and IP. With spreadsheets often containing proprietary information and business logic, your company would be particularly vulnerable if these files fall into unauthorized hands.

Compatibility issues

Remote employees will probably work with different operating systems, and potentially have different versions of Excel with varying settings. As a result, compatibility issues are a big concern, with functionality potentially impacted, leaving some users unable to access the files they need to use. The drawbacks to productivity are plain to see, while compatibility issues can even trigger data loss.

How EASA can resolve remote working issues

EASA allows you to webify your spreadsheets, creating web portals where all Excel files can be securely accessed and shared. This can help mitigate the issues associated with working from home outlined above.

Eliminate version confusion

EASA prevents version confusion by ensuring that users can only access and edit the latest version of the underlying spreadsheet. Only the administrator is able to update this “master version” by uploading a new version of the spreadsheet to the EASA system. Multiple staff members can also use the same version of a spreadsheet simultaneously without having to check in or out, and with no possibility of overwriting somebody else’s work.

Protect proprietary data & intellectual property

As EASA ensures that only authorized personnel can access your spreadsheets, and that everybody is working from one centralized web portal, there’s no need to download, edit, copy or email spreadsheets. Reducing this potentially risky activity means that EASA can keep your intellectual property safe from being exposed or modified by an unauthorized individual.

Prevent compatibility problems

To access the portal, employees only need a web browser and an internet link to your secure servers via your network or the cloud. This means they do not have to download any locally-installed software from their home computers, or even install Excel itself. Mobile users can easily access the web portal too, ensuring that all remote staff can work normally without compatibility problems.

Other advantages of EASA

Ability to build a fully custom user interface

If you require a more intricate and intuitive user interface design than the standard column-row format, there’s no need to call upon IT experts or software developers to build it. Since EASA is a low-code platform, you can build your own custom web application yourself. As such, you can cut development time and save money, while leveraging your existing investment in Excel.

Automatic audit trail and access control

A major shortcoming of traditional spreadsheets is their lack of any systems for maintaining any records of updates and users, nor a means of controlling access. EASA allows you to do both of these things as the software keeps track of all versions of a spreadsheet that have been saved to your intranet or cloud, plus who used them and when. Furthermore, you can use either EASA’s built-in security layer or your existing authentication system to require user verification before access is granted, with permissions also enabling businesses to control what content users can access.

Process automation and workflow management functions

EASA also allows you to integrate and automate spreadsheets with other types of software and data sources, including CRM systems, ERP software and databases. Workflow management capabilities also let you segment and enforce processes, such as requesting an electronic signature before a certain process can continue.

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