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Mitigating the Dangers of Microsoft Excel

by admin in All Blog Posts, Spreadsheets

The other day we stumbled upon this article from Forbes that called out Microsoft Excel as the “most dangerous software on the planet.” Excel, dangerous?  What are they getting at here?

The article speaks to the fact that financial institutions like JP Morgan use Excel to manage complex and critical calculations which were, in fact, wrong. The way they were checking what they were doing was playing around in Excel. And not even in the Masters of the Universe style that we might hope, all integrated, automated and self-checking, but by cutting and pasting from one spreadsheet to another. And yes, they got one of the equations wrong as a result of which the bank lost several billion dollars (perhaps we might drop the gee here but it’s still golly gosh that’s a lot of money).”

But the problem with Excel in this case, really, is not with software itself but with the fact that there were no controls in place to ensure that the spreadsheets were being used correctly. “…We’ve tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of financiers and bankers throwing trillions of dollars around the markets on the basis of their incomplete spreadsheets and their ignorance of how they’re doing it wrong. Pretty scary really.”

Yes, it is scary, but fortunately, this is also a completely preventable issue. Many financial corporations rely on Excel spreadsheets to drive their processes and predictions, and the inherent vulnerability that comes with relying on these spreadsheets is in the fact that they are not secure and are basically only as good as the person who is editing them. And this becomes even more of an issue when you have multiple people who need to be able to edit the spreadsheet because version control becomes less and less feasible.

This is where EASA can be a huge asset. By deploying proprietary spreadsheets as secure, version-controlled web applications, EASA eliminates much of the danger. In contrast to many web app platforms, EASA does not require an organization to discard spreadsheets (which can be an unrealistic requirement); instead, EASA works hand in hand with Excel to transform this remarkably versatile software into an enterprise-class platform. For companies like JP Morgan, whose reliance on spreadsheets can lead to severe ramifications if not correctly managed, EASA becomes not just a benefit, but a critical platform.

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