3 Reasons Why It’s Time for Telcos to Finally Kick Their Spreadsheet Habit
By Karin Williams, Director – Transport Engineering Solutions, TEOCO
Excel spreadsheets can be powerful analysis tools, and they are readily available. This makes them the go-to support for various business needs, especially when custom tools don’t exist. Readily available, however, does not mean ideal. Spreadsheets are best reserved for ad-hoc analysis or short-term special projects versus managing critical business data and core operational processes. Such is the case for many of the world’s telecom operators, who, despite the availability of specialized, automated tools, still rely upon Excel spreadsheets for managing critical data like network orders, circuit inventory, equipment records, and numbering assignments, and are frequently used for tracking project status.
Below are three reasons why purpose-built software is the better choice for managing critical telco operations:
- Security and Usability Gaps
Spreadsheets have limited security controls to protect their use within the organization. They are not designed to properly control multi-user access, enable workflows, or provide overall project management capabilities.
- Version Control Chaos
Most reports must be compiled and are often updated in separate presentations, or spreadsheet versions are emailed throughout the organization. These practices can introduce stale data into the process, along with risky change-control issues.
- Human Errors
Studies show that close to 90% of spreadsheet documents contain errors. “Spreadsheets, even after careful development, contain errors in 1% or more of all formula cells,” according to Ray Panko, professor of IT management at the University of Hawaii. The primary culprits often include typos or bad input, copy and paste errors, incorrect hard-coded values, cell range omissions or incorrect cell ranges in calculations.
Paying the Price
Sometimes small mistakes can lead to big consequences. History is rife with spreadsheet horror stories, including:
- Canadian power company TransAlta lost $24-million when they misaligned some rows on a financial spreadsheet.
- At Eastman Kodak, an employee added too many zeros to a severance accrual spreadsheet, resulting in an $11 million overstatement.
- British spy agency MI5 wrongly collected subscriber data on 134 telephone numbers due to an Excel spreadsheet error.
It’s Time to Think Beyond the Spreadsheet
They may have their place and purpose, but complex telecom business operations and processes need more than spreadsheets can provide.
TraK is TEOCO’s cloud-based web and mobile app that provides access and storage of an Operator’s critical engineering data, configured to meet their project management, workflow, and data analysis needs. Having a central repository for one source of truth allows authorized users to work with only the data they need, in real-time. Layer that with its robust and flexible workflow and automation capabilities, plus configurable forms and dashboards that provide up-to-date project status and key metrics, and you will be eliminating tedious data reviews and compilation exercises in no time.
TraK also allows for document and image storage, and the production of maps, calendars, and other business intelligence to support each project –things that spreadsheets simply can’t do. TraK increases productivity, collaboration, accuracy, and agility in your business operations through its design. And, when its robust automation features and easy integration to other business systems are leveraged, these benefits are multiplied.
Productivity gains of 20-30% have been reported in organizations that eliminated spreadsheets for managing critical business processes. And don’t forget to factor in the hidden soft costs and risks of spreadsheets such as mistakes and rework, along with data security and integrity issues that impact decision-making. The results may surprise you.
Can your organization afford to continue using spreadsheets for critical business data and processes? If not, contact TEOCO to discuss your business needs.