The Danger of Using Spreadsheets to Track Compliance

If you’ve been managing your compliance process for any length of time, you’re probably relying on spreadsheets to track compliance. At first, a spreadsheet made sense. You just needed to map your evidence and documents to compliance requirements, note their owners and locations, and indicate their status. Easy peasy, right?

At first, spreadsheets seem like the natural solution. They’re quick and easy to set up, they don’t need IT support, and you don’t need any programming skills. Simple calculations are…well, simple. Spreadsheets easily accommodate all kinds of information, and they’re easy to update.

But spreadsheets can make compliance tracking more difficult to manage, are definitely more time-consuming, and in some cases are unsafe. Although the list could go on and on, here are our top five reasons that using spreadsheets for compliance tracking are both inefficient and like playing with fire.

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1) No Automation

toy robot

Spreadsheets usually have errors and in the time it takes to update them they are out of date, because it takes time to enter data manually from several sources. There’s no automation available to spreadsheets. You’ve got compliance evidence being submitted from every possible channel, and you’ve got to manage it manually. As a result, you’re spending hours upon hours just keeping track of the documentation, expended week over week over the compliance cycle.

Any reporting you create has to be generated manually, as well. So once you’ve sorted through all the submitted evidence, you still have more work to do just to share your compliance status with the internal audit team.

Using an automation tool like the TCT Portal can eliminate up to 30-50 percent of your compliance operational or tracking time and provide real-time, easy-to-read reports at the click of a button. It doesn’t just keep documentation organized—it streamlines the entire submission and tracking process. Everyone on the team can get their information live on their own. They don’t have to bother the compliance manager at the eye of hurricane to see if they have updated the spreadsheet recently and if it’s accurate.

Best of all, the TCT Portal gives you an organized, aligned result from the prior year’s certification that can be used as a starting point the next year. So Year 2 is remarkably easier to keep everything organized, handy and referenced.

2) Constantly Out of Date

sleazy salesman with out-of-date fashion

When you’re tracking your compliance efforts, you need to know how you’re doing in real time. You can’t rely on a snapshot that’s days (or weeks!) old, because you need to know which people to badger, now.

But because spreadsheets need a human to enter the data, there’s no telling what your actual status looks like. Evidence is coming in through several channels—email, Google Drive, hard copies, meeting minutes, even text messages—and it takes time to sort through all of that and update your spreadsheets. On top of that, it’s easy for evidence to slip through the cracks when it’s being submitted so many different ways, let alone knowing whose hands the item is in. And that slows you down even more.

Whose documents are still outstanding? Who knows? Are they submitted for review? No idea. Your hands are tied, because you don’t know who to pester, and that slows down your evidence gathering even more. Instead, rely on compliance automation software that gives you real-time reporting you can trust.

3) No Audit Trail

rope bridge over foggy gorge

Spreadsheets are constantly changing. You’re entering new data, creating macros, modifying rows and columns, and adding new tabs. What happens when you discover an error? How do you figure out when the error occurred? Spreadsheets don’t provide auditing trails, so you’re out of luck trying to track down how and where the mistake occurred. And that means it’s a huge chore to make it right again.

There’s something fundamentally wrong when you can’t audit your own audit tracking system. You need transparency to ensure your compliance management doesn’t go off the rails. Use a compliance automation tool that eliminates the black box of spreadsheet tracking.

4) Full of Errors

boy with his head against a chalkboard

Nearly 90 percent of all spreadsheets have significant errors. That seems incredible, but when you think about all the opportunities for error, it makes sense. Everything is entered manually, so you’re running the risk of fat-fingering your entries, or entering information into the wrong cell. If you’re using macros, they become convoluted in no time, and they’re easily corrupted. It’s also incredibly easy not to notice if a macro gets deleted or changed.

Do you have a novice using your spreadsheets to track compliance? If so, they’re three times as likely as an expert to make mistakes. And because there’s no way to check the accuracy of your work, you’ll be lucky to spot errors in your spreadsheet.

Do you really want to run your compliance tracking on a system that’s practically guaranteed to be wrong? Compliance automation software can give you assurance that you always have the right information.

5) No Security, Poor Data Protection

broken chainlink fence

Need to share your spreadsheets? Excel gives you worksheet and workbook password-based protection, cell locking and hiding of formulas, and password protection of macros and add-ins. But none of that protection is robust. Despite Excel’s claims, it’s still much too easy to corrupt the data in your spreadsheet.

Spreadsheets are also notorious for providing inadequate security. If you care about the integrity and security of your compliance-tracking records, you’ll ditch your spreadsheets for compliance tracking software that can give you the data protection you need.

Drop Your Spreadsheet Addiction

Most organizations are addicted to their spreadsheets. As much as they hate struggling with them, they have a hard time letting go. But Total Compliance Tracking makes it easy to kick your spreadsheet habit.

Managing compliance complexity has never been so easy with one secure, convenient, automated place to manage it all. Escape the endless email cycles and spreadsheet hassles. Total Compliance Tracking (TCT) reduces manual labor, frees precious resources, and streamlines the journey to completing each and every requirement of your compliance audits.

Get to know simplified compliance without spreadsheets. Schedule your personalized demo.