Spreadsheet maturity

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This blog was originally posted under: IM Blog

Back at the beginning of March, Bloor Research published a paper describing our Spreadsheet Management Maturity Model (you can download it from www.bloorresearch.com/research/market-update/1094/spreadsheet-management-maturity-model/) but I didn’t, for one reason or another, get around to writing a blog about it.

There are a couple of interesting things about this model. The first is that none of the vendors in this space nor, as far as I am aware, any of the auditing or consulting firms, have developed their own models. Which is, I guess, why I thought it would be a good idea. The second is that it is actually a dual model.

What I mean by this is that it is not just a question of evaluating the maturity of your organisation when it comes to spreadsheets (or any end-user computing resources—such as Access databases—for that matter) but that that in itself is often a result of the maturity of the users of spreadsheets within your enterprise.

Basically, what happens is that organisations start by using spreadsheets with no real expertise at all: just some self-taught capabilities. Then some bright spark in a relatively lowly position works out that if he (or she) gets really good at using spreadsheets then that will give him a political and competitive advantage over his colleagues (or, let’s be fair, he may simply be interested in doing his job better). In any case, he becomes the in-house guru on spreadsheets, he writes custom macros to implement any controls that may be put around the spreadsheets (which, of course, can’t be maintained once he leaves the company), and he becomes the fount of all wisdom on all things Excel.

Needless to say this strategy works and our hero (or heroine) duly gets promoted to a more senior position and, based on his own experience with spreadsheets starts to drive a more formalised approach throughout the company, leading, ultimately to an environment where users actually get proper training on best practices for spreadsheet development and use of spreadsheets to ensure that they are compliant with both internal governance policies and external regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley.

Ultimately, of course, spreadsheet management should come under the umbrella of data governance as it covers exactly the same data quality issues as more formalised environments and, indeed, relational databases and spreadsheets often act as data sources to one another so it is logical that they should come under the same control.

Anyway, that’s a starter on our Spreadsheet Management Maturity Model. I will be presenting a webinar on the subject, going into more detail on the organisational aspects of the model, on May 25th (10.00am EST, 3.00pm BST, 4.00pm CET). This is being run in conjunction with CIMCON and you can register for the webinar at www.sarbox-solutions.com/webinar/live_webinars/sox-xl_webinar.asp.