3 times spreadsheets cost more than just an Office licence.

5th of  July 2024

Spreadsheets are versatile tools in businesses, set them up correctly, train your staff to maintain them and you’re well on the way to success. 63% of all businesses use them for accounting but this isn’t a foolproof method and your growth will be limited.

When spreadsheets sit at the heart of your organisation, you open yourself to a whole host of costly errors. Through a simple and easily made mistakes, your business could be down by millions. In this week’s article, we’re taking a look at Kodak’s $11 million close call, Barclay’s overpurchase of Lehman Brother’s assets in 2008, and when MI5 accidentally tapped the wrong phones. You’ll learn how to avoid similar disasters in your business and what you can be using instead.

Kodak’s $11 million mistake

Managing retirement and severance payments is one of your HR department’s most important jobs – get it wrong and you could open yourself up to massive legal challenges. But you can find yourself hit by an unexpected bill in other areas as well.

In 2005, Kodak over stated a singular employee’s severance and retirement benefits by $11 million all because of a typo in another spreadsheet cell. This highlighted issues in Kodak’s internal accounting processes during a time when the company was haemorrhaging funds, as much as $100 million a quarter. As a result, Kodak had to restate 2 quarter’s accounts.

Fortunately for Kodak, they caught this error before the benefit was paid – but imagine if it hadn’t. Worse still – what if you’ve got a mistake like this hiding in your spreadsheet?

Barclays over-bought Lehman Brothers assets in 2008.

The collapse of the bank Lehman Brothers symbolised the start of the recession. As the bank and many others collapsed there was a mad scramble to save the economy from complete collapse.

In October 2008 it emerged that Barclays had overbought Lehman Brothers Assets. Why? Well someone had turned the spreadsheet into a PDF and hidden some rows to go through the data easier. In these rows – 179 contracts.

This revelation came after the lawyers representing Barclays in bankruptcy court, requested that the contracts were excluded from the deal, requesting the circumstances of the deal were considered. Staff were working late and made a small and easy-to-make error. Highlighting the risks of using spreadsheets.

MI5 made bugging errors due to spreadsheets

With a spreadsheet formatting error – the security service MI5 incorrectly tapped 134 phone numbers. The spreadsheet was incorrectly formatted, changing the last three digits of phone numbers to 000. Meaning that the service gathered data on the wrong phone numbers.

At the same time back in 2010, the service also gathered data on 927 IP addresses without the correct permission due to an incorrect system setting.

How do I avoid these mistakes?

As these three tales of spreadsheet disaster highlight, with spreadsheets comes risk. What Shoothill promises is a reduction in risk, by eliminating the system administrative errors that can cost your organisation both financially and reputationally. It might not be the most exciting idea of all time – but it’s pretty cool for your business.

By moving to a completely bespoke custom software solution, you can maintain your current processes but remove the risk of human errors.

If you’d like to protect your business from costly-spreadsheet errors, speak with Shoothill today.

Contact: [email protected]

Phone: +44 (0)1743 636300