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August 11, 2009

UK firms gamble on spreadsheet data

Decision making is a lottery, says IBM

By Steve Evans

UK midmarket firms are gambling on unreliable spreadsheets when it comes to managing data and making business-critical decisions, according to new research from IBM.

The survey quizzed 100 board-level decision makers at midmarket organisations and found that 68% of these enterprises are still using spreadsheets the staple information provider to support business decisions.

Despite this, 35% of respondents claimed that the use of spreadsheets has a marked detrimental impact on business decision making and performance.

“In a challenging economic climate, it’s staggering that mid-market companies are gambling critical company decisions on unreliable spreadsheets and dodgy data,” said Clive Longbottom, service director at Quocirca, the firm that carried out the research. “These firms are far too established to rely on the roll of the dice when it comes to business critical decisions. Budget and resource planning cannot be left to chance by using systems that allow poor quality data to fester.”

Many businesses confessed to worrying about the accuracy of data stored in spreadsheets and 35% said that they provide data only on request, rather than proactively in rolling reports that are available to executives at all times.

“Increasingly, midsize businesses are waking up to the fact that spreadsheets simply cannot deliver reliable and accurate information,” said Ged Simmons, country manager, IBM business intelligence and performance management, UK and Ireland.

“If organisations wish to gain better insight from their data and make accurate decisions to ensure success in the long term, they need reliable data to give them confidence,” Simmons said. “Tailor-made software exists that provides enterprise-level analysis with a mid-size price tag. Mid-market companies would be wise to consider the choices. Hoping for the best is simply not a viable option.”

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A similar study by Oracle recently found that three-quarters of SMBs still rely on spreadsheets to store business-critical data, which provide only fragmented views of their operations.

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