Automate Excel; Save $3.1 Billion

by Morgan Harvey, in Automation Strategy, posted 5/6/13
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It has recently come to the attention of reporters and bloggers alike that Excel spreadsheets are riddled with errors, 88% of spreadsheets are reported to contain some sort of mistake.  I hate to say I told you so, but AutoMate has been integrating with Microsoft Excel for many years to prevent this—and the time and headaches from staring at tiny cells all day.

CNNMoney, in an article titled, “Damn Excel! How the ‘most important software application of all time’ is ruining the world,” outlines some of the biggest blunders blamed on Microsoft’s popular program.  The author, Stephen Gandel writes, “Perhaps we ask too much of the program, or perhaps of our ability to cut and paste.”

And therein lies the problem. With AutoMate, you don’t have to rely on copying and pasting, or any other human interactions with Excel. So let’s take a look at Gandel’s examples and see how automated reporting would have prevented such catastrophes.

Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart

In a 2010 paper, the Harvard professors tied high levels of government debt to low levels of growth based on debt levels of dozens of countries dating back to the 1800s. With this data, they tried to argue against government spending as an effort to revive a failing economy, claiming economies shrank by -0.1% a year when country’s debt hit 90% of its GDP.

The problem: A coding error in their spreadsheet excluded the first five countries in their calculations, with the correct numbers showing economies grew 2.2%.

The AutoMate Way: AutoMate has a drag-and-drop interface where everything is written out in plain text. We’ve removed the barriers to entry by eliminating complicated syntax and rigid code structure. The result is a dynamic environment where you can quickly and accurately develop solutions. No more waiting on development to provide a solution. You can do it, we can help.

AutoMate Excel

JPMorgan Chase

The trading model, which set the standard for monitoring and limiting the amount of risk the London bank could take, was operated through a series of Excel spreadsheets. An internal report claims the data needed to be completed manually “by a process of copying and pasting data from one spreadsheet to another.” 

The problem: One key measure was added instead of averaged, resulting in a $3.1 billion loss because they believed the credit derivatives bet were half as risky as they actually were.

The AutoMate Way: Copy and pasting information from multiple spreadsheets opens you up to significant risks. Not only do you have to keep track of all the different spreadsheets, you also have to remember where things are coming from and where they go. In AutoMate, you can easily open multiple workbooks through the use of sessions and move cells/multiple cells/worksheets from one workbook to another. The information being moved can also be verified against other sources such as databases, proprietary applications, SharePoint or other documents.

Automate Excel

Fannie Mae

In 2003, the mortgage company made errors in an Excel spreadsheet when it was transitioning to accommodate a new accounting regulation.

The problem: The error made Fannie Mae look $1.3 billion more profitable, which they later (and embarrassingly) had to admit to.

The AutoMate Way:  AutoMate tasks can be dynamically changed and moved around at any time. When regulations or rates change, AutoMate tasks can be quickly tweaked to account new scenarios. You can also use AutoMate to automatically stay up to date through the use of dynamic variables. For example, AutoMate can poll financial information/rates from a particular site and then apply that change to specific spreadsheets at defined intervals.

Learn about other problems you can solve with business process automation software

Automate Excel




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