Defy the Spreadmart Wave – Accurate Data at Your Finger Tips
By Clinton Jones on December 17, 2013
You know the old saying that “Knowledge is Power”? While I still believe that it is absolutely true today, the ability to access mass amounts of data has created a new issue. There is now an overabundance of data and often company “knowledge” is inaccurate.
How does your company handle your data? Are you mainly analyzing your Excel documents- which get passed around? It’s not hard to deduct why spreadsheets are used. They are easy to work with, pretty much anyone can create one. The spreadsheet creator gets to decide what metrics and data are important, and how the data is formatted.
Understandably there is a lot of anxiety around accepting the data in that repository, that is supposedly correct, and then making it portable in something like a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The latest versions of repositories offer impressive slicing and dicing capabilities.
Recognizing that you have a spreadmart problem is the first step to solving it. Most of the people that we surveyed know their organizations acknowledge their spreadmarts issue, but they don’t know what to do about it. When offered some choices, the resounding response was that “integration with Excel/Office would solve most issues”.
The Rise of the Spreadmart
What finance executives and businesses seem most concerned about is the increased dependence on what are commonly being referred to as “spreadmarts”. The term data-marts was coined by Wayne Eckerson, in 2002, and referred to by Kurt J. Bilafer Regional Vice President, Analytics, APJ SAP at the recent Senior Finance Executives Roundtable discussion in Singapore. Read the full summary here.
Spreadmarts are, as one writer wrote “spreadsheets gone wild,” with data is sourced from various locations. It creates compromised data of unknown origin, unknown age, and unknown accuracy. These spreadsheets then get passed around the organization as the truth. Because business decisions get made based on this inaccurate content, the term has a thoroughly negative connotation.
Bilafer said that “before SAP acquired Business Objects in 2007, some in SAP itself would take massive amounts of data, dump it into Excel and massage it for the format they liked. Authors commonly format reports to serve their needs. In some cases they find the one number they need, and then throw the file away.
Excel Integration Will Resolve Most Issues
Wayne W. Eckerson and Richard P. Sherman provide statistics on spreadmarts prevalence in their article What Works in Data Integration: Volume 25, May 2008 issue of TDWI -The Data Warehousing Institute. Statistically at least, “approximately 92% of companies that they have spoken to have identified reliance on spreadmarts as a problem”. If your organization has the issue and uses SAP for then you’re missing an opportunity to have updated information with the click of the mouse.
The good news is that there is a simple solution! Just ensure your Excel workbooks can be regularly refreshed from an updated source and that the time of the last refresh is clearly documented. Store the query in Excel and download the template and refresh it, or have it refreshed on a schedule. Our product, Winshuttle Query, allows you to do this with the utmost simplicity. Query provides the option to use Spreadsheets that have Winshuttle queries embedded in them. By default these spreadsheets have on-demand connections to SAP and can be easily passed around within the organization.
Since the data can be refreshed with one click your data is guaranteed to be up-to-date! In addition, this approach ensure that appropriate security is maintained on the data. Users can only see the data the creator provides access to. Your users will be happier, and you will have only one copy of the data, one version of the truth – your SAP system.
How would having updated data make it easier to use the data to make informed decisions? You’ll gain the confidence you need to make data-backed decisions by realizing that great decisions don’t always produce great outcomes.
About the author
Clinton Jones is a Director for Finance Solutions Management at Winshuttle where he has worked since 2009. He is internationally experienced having worked on finance technologies and business process with a particular focus on integrated business solutions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America. Clinton serves as a technical consultant on technology and quality management as it relates to data and process management and governance for finance organizations globally. Prior to Winshuttle he served as a Technical Quality Manager at SAP and with Microsoft in their Global Foundation Services group.
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