Analyst Coverage: Philip Howard
Incisive Software Corporation is based in San Jose, California. It started life more than a decade ago as Red Rover Software but, after investment from Valley Inception LLC its name was changed to Incisive Software in 2009. The following year it launched Xcellerator for spreadsheet analysis, and Concourse for collaboration and control. In the same year Incisive was spun out as an independent company, though Valley Inception retains an interest in it. In 2012, the company introduced Locator for spreadsheet discovery and risk ranking. Although the company is only active in North America it has some major clients including Cathay Bank, Caesar’s Entertainment and Phillips 66.
Incisive Spreadsheet Risk Management
Last Updated: 8th August 2018
Mutable Award: Gold 2018
Unlike some other spreadsheet management vendors, whose emphasis is often purely on compliance, Incisive’s focus is on enabling better business decisions, by ensuring the accuracy of spreadsheet data. The principle is that accurate data mitigates risk, and leads to accurate results, both of which drive improved business decisions. It sees compliance as a subset of supporting the business rather than its be all and end all. To facilitate this, it offers three products: Xcellerator, Concourse and Locator. Often these will be deployed together but this does not have to be the case. Xcellerator is a desktop tool that is used to investigate and validate spreadsheets, and which can also be used to compare spreadsheets (either different spreadsheets or, more usually, different versions of the same spreadsheet). Concourse is used for continuous monitoring of spreadsheets, typically for compliance or audit purposes, change management and integration with content management systems. Finally, Locator is deployed to discover what spreadsheets exist and where they are, to calculate the risks attached to each spreadsheet and to provide reporting capabilities.
“According to research 71% of finance departments do not know where all their spreadsheets are.” FSN (www.fsn.co.uk)
“With the automation Xcellerator has provided, we have been able to significantly increase the efficiency of our audits, and get them done much more quickly than in the past. Xcellerator has allowed us to reduce our overall audit periods from several weeks to as quick as a week.” AES
“Incisive saved us over 1,000 man hours in locating and remediating our key spreadsheets.” A major New York bank
Incisive primarily differentiates itself in its focus and in the way that it works. For example, Figure 1 shows a screenshot from Xcellerator. What has happened here is that you have run a series of tests (shown in the box on the right) and the results in the spreadsheet have been colour coded to indicate the severity of the risk associated with the error that has been discovered. The user has then clicked on the red error to the left of the spreadsheet and a drill-down has appeared showing details about the problem. Overall, this provides significant ease of use benefits. It is further worth commenting that the navigation underlying this has been patented and the coloured overlays are patent pending. Moreover, the colour coding does not impact on the spreadsheet at all, they are merely overlays.
In practice there are some 40 out of the box tests delivered with Xcellerator, including both structural and link testing, and there is also the ability to customise these or build your own. More generally, Xcellerator works with Locator for risk scanning and reporting (which is done via Excel) and there is a Concourse Gateway for collaboration and check-in/out (version control) and workflow processes that support approval processes prior to the publication of a spreadsheet for wider use. Version control means that you will always be working with the latest version of a spreadsheet. There are also notification capabilities, via either email or RSS feed, to alert users when a new version is introduced.
The Concourse Gateway works in conjunction with the Concourse server/repository and the Concourse Control Center, as illustrated in Figure 2. Typically, this involves loading the spreadsheets that you want to put under management control, into a SQL Server or Express database. However, unlike other vendors that either decompose spreadsheets into rows and columns or treat them as pure XML, Incisive works on the basis of the entire spreadsheet, its argument being that some things in a spreadsheet don’t get rendered until they are actually opened in Excel.
However, it is pertinent to point out that users have a choice: you can store spreadsheets in a central repository for tighter management, collaboration and so forth and/or you can monitor spreadsheets where they are currently stored. In either case, all revisions are controlled, all can be alerted, and all are configurable without requiring customised development.
Finally, Locator will discover your spreadsheets for you and allow you to assess the risks (high, medium or low) associated with these risks. This risk assessment may be based on financial or other business criteria – defined by you – or based on the complexity of the spreadsheet and its links (and, therefore, its propensity to have errors). In any case, you can configure the risk assessment to suit your company needs. A useful further feature is to monitor and report on trends in risk measures, so you can see whether a particular spreadsheet is becoming more or less risky over time.
As illustrated, most finance departments don’t know where all their spreadsheets are, that the use of spreadsheets is widespread, that errors within them cost an average of $7Bn annually. Moreover, the advent of new compliance regimes such as GDPR (general data protection regulation) mean that you need to able to discover spreadsheets that contain sensitive personal information. For all these reasons, spreadsheets should be treated as corporate assets in much the same way as any other form of data. And they need to be managed accordingly.
The Bottom Line
Incisive, unlike some other vendors, is focused on mitigating risk and exposure through a focus on the accuracy of data, which will lead to better business decisions. Further, its emphasis is on providing a product suite that you configure rather than customise. A subtle distinction perhaps but one that end users should appreciate, because it all about supporting self-service and ease of use.
Mutable Award: Gold 2018