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Spreadsheets Advance Beyond the Boundaries of Excel

Oct 24th 2006
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Standalone spreadsheets, such as Excel, have not seen much innovation for a decade. The need for enterprise utility has become necessary in the face of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), according to Intelligent Enterprise. With all the corporate uses for spreadsheets, other companies are developing new applications to manage and control them more effectively.

A quote by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) posted on the ClusterSeven web site reads, “As some companies have discovered, errors in relatively simple spreadsheets can result in potential material misstatements in their financial results. Recently, several large companies have either publicly disclosed control deficiencies or have been publicly censured by regulators related to insufficient spreadsheet controls.”

Excel spreadsheets possess inadequete methods for auditing, tracking and controlling spreadsheets, such as the publishing of financial statements. Vendors like ClusterSeven and Prodiance are filling the gaps on situations such as competing analyses using the same numbers that may even rely on several different data sources, according to Intelligent Enterprise.

This new class of applications is also handling the restriction of access to authorized users, tracking changes made by those different people, improving auditability, and mitigating the risk of fraud. Intelligent Enterprise reports that error detection, formula validation, and enhanced referential integrity are helpful features as well. Enterprise-wide, collaborative or repetitive processes required of SOX are a long way beyond individual tasks and one-off analyses.

Prodiance has developed their Remediation Services for Microsoft Excel (RSME) as a solution to help organizations mitigate the risk of errors in their financial reporting processes. RSME audits, tracks and manages changes to a company's financial spreadsheets, according to the company's web site. The system is enabled for organizations using enterprise content management (ECM). The system's controls satisfy the current SOX Section 404 compliance requirements including:

  • Access control
  • Active archival and backup support
  • Change tracking for both offline and non-ECM users
  • Process automation
  • External data source (and other spreadsheet) support
  • Comprehensive file/system/cell-by-cell audit trails
  • Electronic signatures
  • Legally-binding digital signatures
  • Spreadsheet security
  • Data integrity checking
  • Versioning
  • Powerful differencing and reporting tools for spreadsheet comparisons

ClusterSeven's enterprise spreadsheet management software manages, analyses and audits the activity and data generated in spreadsheets, in larger organizations especially, according to the company's web site. More information is available here. The company is based in New York, New York.

Philip Howard said in a ClusterSeven press release, “There are a number of business intelligence vendors providing control and management capabilities for Excel, however, these are typically point solutions and do not have analyis capabilities. Nor do they have the availability to store versions and compare them, and so forth. ClusterSeven is a generic Excel management solution.” Howard is the head of research at IT analyst firm Bloor Research.


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