Is Excel the most dangerous piece of software in the world? — Enable

Is Excel the most dangerous piece of software in the world?

Filed as ArticlesPosted August 11, 2014

Recently there have been a number of articles published on the possible dangers of Microsoft Excel, with NewStatesman citing that “Microsoft’s calculator is partially to blame for JPMorgan losing $9bn, and a lot more besides”.

Many of us at Enable love Excel and use spreadsheets daily. Spreadsheets are often inexpensive to create, highly flexible, mostly easy to use and very easy to share. But what makes Excel so great is also its Achilles’ heel.

Many business processes start small. For example: recording financial progress, tracking budgets, or managing pricing on complex deal. And each spreadsheet often has a small team sharing, inputting and extracting data from it. In this environment Excel can offer a simple solution.

Difficulties often occur when the scale of the business process increases dramatically and far more people become contributors to the spreadsheets.

When Excel reaches this “tipping point” it’s time to call the professionals in, but oftentimes some severe damage has already been done so it’s worth looking at the options early.

Issues around version control, not to mention human-error such as overwriting and mis-keying data start to creep in. The web is awash with examples of when Excel goes badly wrong.

When Excel reaches this “tipping point” it’s time to call the professionals in

Many software projects begin with an Excel proof of concept and Enable regularly gets asked to develop systems to replace Excel spreadsheets, which house increasingly important and critical business processes.

The theory is that if you can handle a business process in Excel, you can at least in principle accommodate that same process in a far more accessible, scalable and modern set of technologies — thereby removing all that is not so good about Excel whilst retaining that which is brilliant.

When data is housed in a formal database such as Microsoft SQL Server and a solid data access layer and user interface is developed then access control and security become much easier to manage. The system will inevitably be more reliable, robust, secure, and scalable and all those other good things that Excel is not.

So when you outgrow Excel and are looking for a software development partner, send us your spreadsheets — we love Excel!

Is Excel the most dangerous piece of software in the world?

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