A study commissioned by Alteryx has found spreadsheet users spend much of the time doing manual and repetitive work when the data sources are updated, wasting a substantial amount of money and man hours every year.
Any regular Excel knows that repetitive work and manual processes constitute a big part of the time you spend using the programme.
Despite this, and although there are alternatives, most businesses choose to keep on using Excel, mainly because of the range of calculations and analysis it offers. However, the study conducted by IDC and commissioned by the self-service data analytics company Alteryx titled “The State of Self-Service Data Preparation and Analysis Using Spreadsheets” has found the cost of this persistence: $12,000 (£8,800) per annum, to be exact. Extrapolated across the entire American economy, it constitutes an average of $60 billion wasted every year.
The problem seems to be in the use of Excel rather than the programme itself: “It's not really Excel or any other spreadsheet that is responsible for the supposed $60 billion black hole,” says Simon Hurst, founder of The Knowledge Base and AccountingWEB contributor. “Instead it is the lack of knowledge of how to use a spreadsheet properly, or how to avoid using a spreadsheet in the first place, that creates this level of wasted time and effort.”
According to the IDC/Ateryx report, spreadsheets' most advanced users, around 8% of all the enterprise employees, use Excel mainly to perform activities such as what-if analysis, cleansing, and prepping data. These users typically spend 26 hours per week working with spreadsheets performing activities such as summarizing and manipulating data and doing statistical calculations. However, up to 8 hours per week inefficiently spent on repeated effort when data sources are updated.
The use of copy/paste is the most common of these inefficient operations, mentioned by 81% of the interviewed users as their method of data acquisition. The report defines the operation as a key contributor to inefficiency and waste, typically related to errors and compliance issues. In fact, previous research has shown that almost 90% of spreadsheets contain errors.
The white paper includes final recommendations to tackle the problem of the hours wasted on the preparation and analysis processes, including converting to different tools and software as an alternative to spreadsheets. However, with the use of Excel still widely spread across different industries, finding new ways of using spreadsheets, it seems, is the best immediate solution.
Download the Alteryx report for more information on the causes and effects of the inefficient use of spreadsheets.