Reducing spreadsheet risks with customers and suppliers

warehouse manager tracking supply order details

January 26, 2021

In this second blog looking at how modern analytics can reduce spreadsheet risk and inefficiency, we will examine the impact that spreadsheets have on sharing insights with customers and suppliers.

In our earlier blog on the role of spreadsheets in analytics, we noted that the ease of use and access of spreadsheets meant that they were often the ‘go-to’ application for many key business processes. Still, that use came with severe drawbacks in terms of accuracy, slow and cumbersome manual processes, and security.

It will come as no surprise that another everyday use of spreadsheets is sharing insights with customers, suppliers, and partner organizations. We know that sharing information such as inventory levels with suppliers and consolidated procurement data with customers can significantly benefit both parties with improved transparency of information and less friction when doing business. However, when this information exchange is performed using spreadsheets as the delivery mechanism, we fall into the familiar traps we have read about previously.

Firstly, these spreadsheet extracts are very time-consuming to create due to the inevitable manual processes involved in preparing the data, particularly if it comes from multiple systems and sources. Secondly, errors are unavoidable. The number of stories that exist describing serious business issues caused by spreadsheet errors is many, and you are welcome to read our best practice guide to find links to a small selection of horror stories involving missing data and simple mistakes that have cost organizations millions of dollars.

Despite the prevalence of these two common spreadsheet issues, sharing information with customers and suppliers exposes two more important weaknesses with spreadsheets when used to deliver information and insights – security and accuracy. When data is shared, often via email, there is no way to control where it goes and who views it. Combined with the widespread practice of hiding rows and columns of sensitive information that the recipient can easily unhide, there is potential for exposing confidential information that could have a serious business impact and the possibility of fines from regulators.

Accuracy is always an issue because the minute a data extract has been made to a spreadsheet; it is out-of-date. There is no concept of real-time updates, which can have serious consequences when sharing time-sensitive information such as inventory or accounts payable balances. It will undoubtedly impact customer satisfaction if they make decisions on incorrect and stale information that you supplied.

To avoid these risks and inefficiencies, using a modern analytics platform to share information with customers, suppliers and partners ensures that information is always up-to-date, secure thanks to granular security to control access to both data and functionality, and perhaps most importantly, well-governed so that you can be confident that the data supplied does not contain a simple spreadsheet error that could distort a value.

In addition to this improvement in productivity, security, and accuracy, a modern analytics platform makes it easier to monetize data by providing added value services such as self-service access to information, the ability to merge their own personal data with your centrally-governed data, or advanced analytics using machine learning.

Read more about retiring spreadsheets from your customer and supplier information flows and four other ways of reducing spreadsheet-created risks and inefficiencies in your organization in our best practice guide today.

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