The Danger of Using Compliance Tracking Spreadsheets

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 your compliance requirements, note their owners and file locations, and mark their status. Easy as pie, right?

Maybe at first.

Compliance tracking spreadsheets seem like a natural solution. They’re quick and easy to set up, they don’t require 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 in the long run, spreadsheets can make compliance tracking more difficult to manage. They’re more time-consuming, and in some cases they’re unsafe. Although the list could go on and on, here are our top five reasons to quit using compliance management spreadsheets.

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1) Too Much Manual Effort

Every change to your spreadsheet — every correction, every update, every new entry — has to be manually entered. Spreadsheets can’t automate your data entry. You’ve got compliance evidence being submitted from every possible channel—email, Google Drive, hard copies, meeting minutes, even text messages—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 throughout 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 your team.

2) Always Out of Date

Your compliance tracking tool should tell you 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 follow up with, 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 and it takes time to sort through it and update your compliance tracking spreadsheets. On top of that, it’s easy for evidence to slip through the cracks when it’s being submitted so many different ways.

Whose documents are still outstanding? Have they been submitted for review? Your hands are tied, because you don’t know who to follow up with. It’ll take hours of manual organizing and sifting to determine what files you have and whose submissions are still missing.

3) No Audit Trail

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 audit trails, so you’re out of luck tracking down how and where the mistake occurred. It’s a huge chore to make your data right again.

There’s something fundamentally wrong with a compliance tracking system that can’t be audited. You need transparency to ensure your compliance management doesn’t go off the rails. Spreadsheets don’t make the cut.

4) Full of Errors

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. Since everything is entered manually, every keystroke runs the risk of fat-fingering your entries, or entering information into the wrong cell. Macros become convoluted over 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 user working in your tracking spreadsheets? 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 their work, you’ll be lucky to spot their errors.

5) Poor Data Protection

Need to share your spreadsheets with people on your team? Spreadsheets are easy to share, but they’re hard to protect. Excel gives you several ways to protect your data:

  • Worksheet and workbook password-based protection
  • Cell locking
  • Hiding of formulas
  • Password protection of macros
  • Various add-ins

However, 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 need to protect the integrity and security of your compliance-tracking records, you won’t get it from spreadsheets.

A Better Compliance Tracking System

Fortunately, there are alternative compliance tracking tools. Using an automation tool like TCT Portal can eliminate up to 30-50 percent of your compliance management time and provide real-time, easy-to-read reports at the click of a button. The compliance software doesn’t just keep your evidence organized—it streamlines the entire submission and compliance management process.

Everyone on your team can get their information live on their own. They don’t have to bother the compliance manager at the eye of the hurricane to see if they’ve updated the spreadsheet recently and if it’s accurate.

TCT’s compliance automation software gives you real-time reporting you can trust. It’s fully auditable, so you know what changes have been made, when, and by whom. Automated tasks reduce manual input errors, and the few human errors that may occur are quickly spotted and resolved.

TCT Portal keeps your data safe, too. Because we’re built by security and compliance experts, you can trust the compliance system to give you the data protection you need.

Best of all, TCT Portal uses your organized results from the prior year’s certification as a launching point for the next year. No more starting from Square One every year. So Year 2 is even more efficient and organized than Year 1, and Year 3 is better than Year 2, and so on. Since you have access to a full audit trail from the prior year, even if your organization experiences turnover, the new person can easily see what was done and by whom.

Drop Your Spreadsheet Addiction

Most organizations are addicted to their compliance tracking spreadsheets. As much as they hate struggling with them, they have a hard time letting go. But Total Compliance Tracking (TCT) 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. 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.