Posted on October 18, 2008 by

Painful Reminder – Barclays Spreadsheet Error Results in Lehman Chaos

The danger of spreadsheet errors and the risk it poses to organisations was exposed in this article.

Due to a spreadsheet related error, or should that be human error whilst in control of a spreadsheet, Barclays are at risk of having to purchase and take on the positions of approximately 179 contracts that they do not want, due to a hidden column in a spreadsheet – the ‘Buy’ column which contain a ‘YES’ or a ‘NO’. Unfortunately at the last minute (well reportedly at 11.30pm) this column was accidently removed by a new member of the legal team.

This reinforces the need to break the excel habit to reduce risk and bring in a more robust, controlled environment however this does not have to mean going cold turkey. Rather than poorly managed, ad hoc spreadsheets, organisations should look at using Excel Services which is part of SharePoint to improve control over spreadsheets. Alternatively using the Business modelling capabilities within Office PerformancePoint Server provides a robust, secure modelling environment whilst retaining the much loved excel interface.

Using either Excel Services or Office PerformancePoint Server (or both) would be appropriate and not add significantly to the IT burden in a high pressure environment such as a merger where financial models need to be prepared very quickly and are only used for a relatively short period of time. This approach can also be taken for more ‘line of business’ spreadsheets. Cluster 7 is another option for controlling line of business spreadsheets.

These are just a couple of ways that organisations can break the excel habit, and move to a more robust, controlled environment without losing the benefits of excel or having to incur the expense of new, complex software.