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The Spreadsheet Endures, Despite Its Drawbacks

By:
S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Nov 18, 2022

Despite its many problems the spreadsheet endures, Accounting Today reported.

There are many reasons why accountants don't like spreadsheets—such as their requiring manual entry and being prone to human error—according to Randy Johnston, executive vice president of K2 Enterprises, but they persist.

"You think of this inefficiency, this error-proneness, the calculations being incorrect, and if the model gets bigger it gets harder to maintain," he said. Yet, “spreadsheets are used by more people for more things than ever before, and I don't see that slowing down in any shape or fashion.”

The primary argument in favor of retention is familiarity. "We use the spreadsheet to manipulate data, but there are programs that are superior to the spreadsheet for certain applications. There's that old saying that, 'This is what I know so that is what I use,'” L. Gary Boomer, of Boomer Consulting, told Accounting Today.

Donny Shimamoto, founder and managing director of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies, agreed that the spreadsheet won’t fade away anytime soon due to its flexibility, functionality and ease of learning. He concedes that spreadsheets are limited by the complexity of an organization’s needs.

“You probably need a database behind the spreadsheet to store large volumes of data; you probably want to use some statistical analysis software to look at the multidimensionality; you may want to use artificial intelligence to help identify trends that you can't easily see; you may want to use a data visualization tool to help create more engaging 2D or 3D graphics with drill through and easier filtering capabilities,” he said by way of explanation.

Others find the humble spreadsheet to be adapting and evolving to meet these increasingly complex needs.

Grant Thornton is using “supercharged” spreadsheets such as Microsoft’s Power Apps enhancements to its Excel program in Office 365. These technologies “take the ordinary spreadsheet to what I'd call a 3D view in terms of taking the data in,” said Jamie Fowler, the firm’s chief transformation officer. They “allow for not as many mistakes to be made," she said, compared to "the old, broken formulas and all those problems that can really create havoc for accountants."