Better Than Spreadsheets

Three reasons why spreadsheets are not suitable for HSE, CSR and similar reporting tasks

Spreadsheet applications are sometimes called "enterprise glue", since they can be used to deal with data, calculations etc. even by novice users. However, as tempting as the use of a spreadsheet-based process for HSE/CSR reporting may seem, there are important limitations to keep in mind.

Process control and updates

When dealing with spreadsheet files and multiple users, either with a single workbook file with a worksheet per location/topic or multiple files, it is virtually impossible to keep all data correctly up to date. If you send a file to Bob, he sends it back, but has to fix something in it and sends it a second time, you'll have to merge any changes done on that spreadhseet in the meantime. And when Alice sends her updates at the same time, the process gets really difficult.

Even if processes are in place to avoid this type of problem and these were very strictly followed, it's still not possible to reliably freeze data, or keep an auditable record of changes made.

When new indicators are added, old ones get removed, or responsibilities change, pushing out updated spreadsheets to every person will almost inevitably cause a mess with different versions of the spreadhseets being passed around.

SERAM uses a role-based permission system to exactly control who can do what on which data. Users are guided to help them quickly and efficiently perform their task at hand. Since it is an online app, updates to the indicator configuration are reflected immediately to all users.

The built-in, customizable workflow support allows many users to concurrently enter data. A history of changes is created, and data is freezed for modification as soon as it enters the verification stage.

Different checks will verify if the data is valid and plausible, and influence the behavior and workflows allowed.

Consolidation and calculation

As long as only one location is being tracked, making calculations is simple. But when multiple locations are involved, data needs to be consolidated appropriately. Here's a simple example which illustrates the problem:

"Compute the CO2 emission equivalents per employee from electricity use." There are just 3 numbers involved: the number of employees, the amount of electricity, and a site-specific factor to convert energy into CO2 equivalents.

("Electricity" * "EmissionFactor") / "FTE"

When multiple sites are involved, computing this number correctly with a spreadsheet becomes difficult. To get the numbers right, you need to compute the multiplication per site, create the sum of that, and divide it by the sum of the FTEs.

Adding or removing a site will very likely require you to update some details of your formula in the spreadsheet. And if you add time-based consolidation, such as entering data on a monthly basis but reporting the yearly value, the complexity pretty much explodes.

Using SERAM, all indicators are designed to deal with data consolidations appropriately.

On the time axis, you can apply average, sum, max or min consolidations.

On calculations, you can define whether they apply to a specific level (the site for the multiplication in the example above) or if they are performed on the summed values (the division above).

Extracting and analyzing data

After collecting data, you typically have specific questions you want to answer. These require data to be computed in specific ways. Manually maintinaing formulas in spreadhseets is cumbersome and errorprone.

With dealing with a host of sheets, cells and formulas, it gets difficult to understand the data and find outliers.

In SERAM, you can load any view of data you need, and arrange the time, indicator and organisational axes to the layout which is most appropriate for answering your question. Extending or reducing the scope is easy.

On top of that, you can perform data analysis by consolidating and looking at the data from a different perspective, soch as making a breakdown by country or by factory type. Or you can even build what-if scenarios where only specific parts of the organization are summed up.

Charts can be created to visualize data, and these charts are intelligent enough to avoid mixing apples and oranges. For instance, monthly and yearly values will not appear side-by-side in the same chart, since these are not comparable. Instead SERAM will automatically create one chart for each.

SERAM allows you to dissect any computed or consolidated value, step by step, down to the entered values. On the way charts will automatically be created to visualize the drilldown, and outliers become directly apparent.


These are just a few examples of the shortcomings of using a generic spreadsheet solution. Contact us if you want to get to know SERAM and have a better experience!