Still Using Spreadsheets to Manage Risks

By: Christina Duren

Managing risk is essential in every organization to accomplish its key objectives effectively. Risk management not only requires a reliable process to capture risks, but also needs a mechanism to document and administer the organization’s response.

Spreadsheets are commonly used management tools because they are:

• Convenient to use: Many people believe that spreadsheets are convenient to collect, code, sort and analyze data. Yes, they are better than paper based management systems, but they are risky.

• Flexible to enter data: With some basic encoding, spreadsheets offer flexible arrangements of rows and columns to enter data. They allow the user to configure and enter information in a way that suits his unique needs. But risk management involves analysis of various factors and a spreadsheet may not be helpful.

• Low cost or free option: Spreadsheets are either available as freeware or at low-cost. That is why organizations use them extensively. But they fail to understand the fact that the true cost of a tool should be defined by the operational costs that affect the business on long-run; not by the initial cost of the tool.

Are they really beneficial?
Many business owners and risk managers today are using spreadsheets as risk management tools unaware of the risks involved (however some are aware).

Here are the risks involved:

• Inability to process huge amounts of data: Although spreadsheets are a good solution for small volumes of data, the processing and calculation will become complicated with the continual growth.

• Time consuming: Risk management requires collecting great deal of information, which often results in huge number of spreadsheets interlinked to each other. A little change to the data structure becomes a great task. This makes risk managers spend countless hours validating data, double checking formulas, and updating values, which is as a time-consuming process.

• Complex to find mistakes: It is quite difficult to find mistakes in a spreadsheet with lot of data. It is often time consuming process to find where exactly the mistakes have occurred.

• Limits the depth of risk analysis: With each change made to a spreadsheet, links between the information are lost making it difficult to analyze relationships over time. Without these links, it becomes tough to link risks and their controls. Also they offer limited access to past and current data making it difficult to compare data overtime.

An appropriate risk management tool always helps the risk managers to identify, assess, and prioritize the risks which can be prevented. Spreadsheets are the most commonly used risk management tool however there are more effective tools to replace spreadsheets for effective risk management.

About JDi Data Corporation
JDi Data Corporation has provided insurance claims and RMIS software since 1992. JDi Data offers web based workers comp software and also claims systems for insurance claims departments, third party administrators and risk managers to administer property, casualty and general liability claims. JDi Data has built a reputation in quality claims management software with special emphasis on specialty lines and complex litigation.