Spreadsheets are a wonderful planning and financial analysis tool, but a
simple mistake can throw off a budget or expense tally costing companies
thousands or even millions of dollars. Also, without proper controls,
spreadsheets can be manipulated for personal gain or other criminal
A number of solutions have emerged to help keep spreadsheets under
control so companies can track data entry and adhere to their own
business rules as well as government regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley.
One of those providers, ClusterSeven, has just introduced a version of
its Enterprise Spreadsheet Manager solution, already available for Microsoft
Excel, to Google’s online spreadsheet application (Google Docs and
Spreadsheets). The four-year old ClusterSeven is a Microsoft Gold Partner that has attracted a stable of blue chip clients, particularly in Europe, such as Dresdner and two pan-European utilities (RWE and EDF).
As with Microsoft, ClusterSeven’s relationship with Google is independent. The
search giant recommends third party program’s like Enterprise Spreadsheet
Manager to corporate clients who want more features than Google’s own
integrated set of applications provide.
“When we talk to corporate accounts about on-line spreadsheet
collaboration, we often get asked about visibility and control over those
collaborations,” said Scott McMullan, Google Apps Partner Lead for Google
Enterprise, in a statement. “ClusterSeven builds on our standard controls
to provide a solution that has solved the additional demands of some of some
of the world’s premier financial institutions.”
Enterprise Spreadsheet Manager checks entries against business rules set
by the company without any slow down or impact on the user, the company
said. Business rules could include adherence to Sarbanes-Oxley compliance
regulations and basic security measures to insure no one can benefit
personally from what they enter.
Depending on how Spreadsheet Manager is implemented, a designated
manager(s) is alerted by e-mail or SMS text message when a rule is broken or
conflict arises with a spreadsheet entry. For simple, less critical
issues, the user is simply alerted when a mistake, conflict or something
counter to company policy is entered.
“We primarily adopt a detective mode
like a security camera,” Ralph Baxter, senior vice president for product
development at ClusterSeven told InternetNews.com. “We don’t stop
anyone, but we do send alerts when there’s an issue and provide companies
with a fully auditdable view of each spreadsheet.”
Google has been beefing
up security in the e-mail component of its Google Apps Premier Suite via
Postini, a security company it purchased earlier this year. Postini actually
lets companies set rules about what types of information can be transmitted,
preventing, for example, social security or credit card numbers from being
e-mailed. “We don’t yet offer active resistance” to errors, said Baxter,
hinting such capability may be in a future release.
While it is important to safeguard against fraud, Baxter said a
more common issue is simple user errors or spreadsheet rules not being
updated, resulting in “stale information,” such as an outdated foreign
currency exchange rate.
Google charges $50 per user annually for its integrated Google Apps
Premier suite. ClusterSeven charges $1 per day per spreadsheet for its
Service, regardless of how many users access the spreadsheet.
“Right now the organizations we speak to are predominantly Excel-based, but now we’re seeing an extension into the online world where companies are at shared
applications like Google Spreadsheet,” said Baxter. “We’re looking to help those companies that are looking for the same level of control they have with their desktop.”
Currently, ClusterSeven pulls Google Spreadsheet data in behind the
firewall and monitors it locally, but Baxter said a fully hosted solution is
in the works.