Many continue to use spreadsheet tools as their ‘default’ approach for data analysis for a few main reasons. Obviously the software has high availability, with the majority of businesses use Microsoft™ as their operating system whist Microsoft Excel® is the most recognised spreadsheet tool in the market for data entry.
It becomes a habit. Spreadsheet tools are familiar, comfortable and many (instinctively) attempt to use a spreadsheet tool to fulfil data analysis objectives. There is a lack of CAAT awareness/knowledge, with many unaware that specialist data analysis tools exist! Not willing to invest in data analytic software. Adopting a CAAT approach is a relatively inexpensive option. However, there will always be an appeal to continue using spreadsheet tools for data analysis as it is a free approach requiring no further investment.
What many don’t know is all the limitations of using spreadsheet tools for data analysis, over CAAT technology. Firstly the volume. For perspective, Microsoft Excel 2003 is limited to 65,536 rows of data or in Microsoft Excel 2007 the record limit is 1,048,576 rows. Interactive Data Extraction and Analysis (IDEA) can analyse 2.1 billion rows of data per an unlimited number of sheets. Spreadsheets offer little-to no data integrity. The data can be manipulated with any accidental or deliberate strikes to the keyboard, losing valuable time and effort in your analysis. In comparison, core data cannot be changed once imported into IDEA.
Spreadsheet tools do not record tests performed on the data set, nor contain a log feature which shows documented proof to accompany the audit plan. IDEA automatically creates a history log which is a complete audit trail of the tests performed (and who performed it). The history trail cannot be deleted. Spreadsheet tools are not audit tools and have been designed and developed for data input and reporting only. As an independent, purpose-built data analysis tool, IDEA has most of the commonly used audit tests available as ‘one button’ click options.
Data viewed on the screen is usually a spreadsheets interpretation of the imported data. A good example is how a spreadsheet tool interprets a date field: A date downloaded from the host system held as 08/12/01 may display as 08-Dec-2001. This on its own may not seem important but Excel (for example) will hold this date as a number of days since 1st Jan 1900. If the spreadsheet was then saved and an attempt was made to view the source data the date would have changed to a number.
IDEA software is the market leading Computer Assisted Audit Tool/Technique (CAAT) which has been designed to help any user analyse, manipulate and interrogate huge quantities of data held from any business platform/system. IDEA does not rely on business intelligence and therefore no data interpretations are made whatsoever. What you see is a true snapshot of the imported data ready for analysis. Not only that but IDEA is the most user-friendly and cost-effective tool available, making it an easy transaction from your existing spreadsheet auditing tool.