A clear trend is emerging: convert Excel to applications on a Low Code or No Code platform. Many a low-code & no code vendor will attest this to your company. Still, switching applications is always difficult. You must be wondering why switching from Excel to a low-code application is the right choice. Trends are signals to ask yourself the question: should I do something with this and if so, what? You will first have to determine for yourself whether this is relevant to you. For example, such as the question of what critical business processes does your organization use. So the question I like to answer in this article is: why does replacing Excel applications with apps on a Low Code platform make sense?
Houston, We have a problem
To explain how relevant this case is, I like to use the following anecdote. For this, I’d like to take you back in time to 1970. Apollo 13 was the fifth manned mission to the Moon, to perform the third lunar landing as part of Project Apollo. Two days after launch, an oxygen tank exploded on April 13, 1970. Commander Jim Lovell masterfully spoke the historic words, “Okay Houston, I believe we’ve had a problem.” Together with the NASA Mission Control Center in Houston, everything came to fruition and the astronauts were safely back on Earth on April 17. Those historic words have since taken on a life of their own in the present tense: “Houston, we have a problem.” And that variant certainly applies in many organizations to the use of Excel in mission-critical processes.
7 risks of Excel in business-critical processes
CardoAI has researched risks in using Excel for investors. I will not say that these are the only risks, but these 7 illustrate why there is a (latent) problem.
- 89% of spreadsheets contain errors and no one who will see it;
- Security risks in handling privacy-sensitive information;
- No to insufficient options for integration with master data;
- Every day, an infinite number of versions of the same file are created and stored everywhere and nowhere;
- Access control and editing rights missing; No audit rail;
- Limited amount of data to process;
- Operation and use mostly not documented nor known to others.
Implications of risk
It becomes even more interesting when you see the consequences these risks can have. Some examples:
- JP Morgan lost more than $6 billion in the “London Whale” trading incident, which went undiscovered because of spreadsheet errors in their Value at Risk model;
- Fidelity miscalculated the net capital loss in one of their major U.S. funds by $2.6 billion because of a missing minus sign in a spreadsheet;
- Fannie Mae misstated their equity by $1.1 billion because of an inaccurate Excel file;
- Barclays suffered huge financial losses after they found out they had bought 179 unwanted contracts in the Lehman liquidation because they had not been removed but only hidden in an Excel file;
- A 2015 study by Hermans and Murphy-Hill examined Enron’s email archives. They found that 10% of all emails contained or discussed Excel files and that as many as 24% of these spreadsheets contained formula errors.
Now your organization may not be comparable in size to JP Morgan, Fannie Mae or Barclays. Which also reduces the amounts mentioned. But is the impact also lower? I think that one is just as big. You too want to avoid mistakes with a relatively similar impact simply because you would rather spend that money on useful things.
Comfort: You couldn’t prevent it
I think it is a comforting thought that one could not have prevented this in the examples mentioned. And the same will be true for you. Why? Among the reasons I see for this are these:
- Excel applications were often created at a time when the choice was limited between Excel (Microsoft Access, if necessary) and serious IT solutions. Solutions where the content of the application at the time did not justify the effort in time and money of the IT organization.
- Often such Excel applications grow organically from something small and simple to something large and complex.
- Many of the Excel applications are invisible to the outside world, leaving the “one-man-band” undiscovered.
- Sometimes it is part of a larger problem when IT modernization lags behind the needs of the business for too long.
Let’s take an example. The one-man-band, the one-man orchestra. A perfect solution was created in Excel and it meets everything that is needed. The employee maintains the solution and the business benefits. No one who knows the details well and no one who has the urgency to change it. Not yet…
Time passes and then suddenly there is an urgency that often comes in one of three flavors.
- The employee retires.
- The employee has a new job elsewhere.
- The employee becomes ill for an extended period of time or dies.
From urgency to action
More and more organizations are recognizing the problem of Excel – often in conjunction with Shadow IT. Now there are several alternatives to Excel that you can use to curb the urgency outlined. To stay with the trend identified, I look specifically at using a Low Code platform to take action. With the rise of Low Code platforms, an alternative emerged and the phenomenon of Citizen Developer was also born. Gartner has provided a good definition for this. A Citizen Developer is an employee who creates application capabilities for use by themselves or others. Using tools that are not actively prohibited by IT or business units.
From Excel to Low Code
However, acting to eliminate the pressing problems is not as simple as having a Low Code platform for the Citizen Developer to work with. Why? Because a Low Code platform is ultimately as risky as Excel when there is no oversight of that Citizen Developer. In addition, such a platform is capable of much more than just the wishes of Citizen Developers.
That’s why I recommend you choose a model I call “Rapid Development under Architecture.” In this model, the Citizen Developer and the Pro-Developer work together. Both persons in their own power. This allows you to deal with – among other things – the potential risks of maintainability and reuse in a controlled way. With that, you can properly integrate with data sources in your organization. Or even beyond that. So that the integrity of information is ensured. In addition, this ensures compliance with privacy laws and regulations. With that, you provide governance in which you agree with each other how certain matters are handled. Such as the – seemingly simple – aspects of recording names, addresses and the like. And perhaps most importantly, it is part of your overall digital transformation.
Want to know more about the structured approach to transforming from Excel to Low Code? Please contact us. We are happy to discuss the possibilities of translating your Excel into a low code application.
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