Human Error

How to Avoid Errors from Copying and Pasting in Excel

“To err is human, to forgive is divine.” – Alexander Pope

People make mistakes, it’s inherent in our nature. In the business world, there’s no easier way to make those errors than with the ever-popular method of manually copying and pasting into Excel.

Those of us who use Excel perform a wide range of diverse tasks with our spreadsheets; from inventory tracking to financial reporting, from contact lists to data gathering and analytics. It’s your job to ensure the likelihood of inaccuracies is reduced—or better yet, eliminated altogether—because those mistakes could equate to bad decisions, loss of inventory, or reduced profits.

Although most mistakes are not deliberate, published studies like that of Robert Panko in What we know About Spreadsheet Errors report that nearly 9 out of 10 spreadsheets contain errors. That is 90 percent! In addition, a majority of these are caused by human error, meaning that they could have just as easily been avoided.

The Price of Spreadsheet Errors

So how do these incorrect calculations and spreadsheet blunders play out in real life? Take the infamous case of TransAlta back in 2003. They lost both revenue and integrity because of spreadsheet mistakes. As outlined by Louis Pryor, TransAlta lost $24 million because of a copy/paste error in Excel, providing two operation deficiencies: running a business from manual pasting processes and lack of verification on the numbers.

Even the United States Federal Reserve has made copy and paste blunders in their consumer credit statement. As Tyler Durden explained in his article Blatant Data Error at the Federal Reserve, even though they did not make an official statement about the impact, it likely led to a difference of about $4 billion.

These stories give credibility to the hypothesis that copy and paste is truly copy and waste. Errors in spreadsheets can greatly impact your bottom line, and lead to poor decision making.

Keep Excel, Eliminate the Errors

But don’t begrudge the most widely used Microsoft business application just yet. There is good news here: You don’t need to completely eliminate the use of spreadsheets altogether in order to avoid these detrimental mistakes. All you must to do is rely less often on copy and paste as your methodology to obtain accurate data and reporting, and there is a fast, easy way to get there.

Reducing the errors related to copy and paste is as simple as using a software solution that allows for easy data automation to safeguard against the failures cause by manual entry. Fortunately, there are even data and reporting solutions available that are made specifically to work with more than 140 ERPs out-of-the-box in hours, are automated, easily integrated, and have rapid-time-to-value .

By using these solutions, you will gain confidence in your spreadsheets. Your data and your reports can be updated for everyone, at the same time, which ensures everyone is working from the same version of the truth, thus not compromising the integrity of the numbers.

For more tips on how you can help ease the pain of Excel-mania (a chronic condition resulting from excessive cutting and pasting to generate reports), be sure to check out our whitepaper, “Avoid the High Cost Approach to Reporting and Analytics.”