Seven Reasons Why Spreadsheets Aren't Great for Compliance

Seven Reasons Why Spreadsheets Aren't Great for Compliance

January 11, 2022

We want to make one thing clear: at Hummingbird, we love spreadsheets. The spreadsheet is an amazingly useful tool, capable of cataloguing, organizing, and analyzing large amounts of data in a user-friendly format. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine the modern business world without it.

For compliance work, however, spreadsheets aren’t a perfect fit. True, there’s a significant amount of data collection and analysis involved, but certain other aspects of the compliance professional’s workflow make the use of a spreadsheet feel like a square peg in a round hole.

Still feeling the urge to click on that little green workbook? Here are seven more great reasons to stop using spreadsheets for your compliance work.

1. Spreadsheets are tedious to set up.

Compliance professionals show their value as investigators, not as data-entry technicians. But if your data still lives exclusively in spreadsheets, chances are your team is doing a lot of manual data entry. And all that time spent copy / pasting is part of the reason why compliance teams find themselves stretched thin, struggling to manage a caseload that requires them to both conduct the investigation and manually execute all inputs, changes, and escalations.

2. They’re always outdated.

The moment you close a spreadsheet, it’s effectively out-of-date. Why? Because compliance work is an ongoing process, and needs to be done in real time. The spreadsheet is a static environment, unable to absorb new alerts and case updates without that data being imported manually. This means the people doing casework are always working with something less than the complete picture.

3. The audit trail goes up in smoke.

This is a big one. What’s the auditor’s motto? If it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen. Well, try maintaining an accurate record of all of the changes and adjustments made to a spreadsheet in any given year. This red flag waves even harder when you have multiple parties accessing and editing a document. Who made what change, where, and why? Efforts by compliance professionals to track this type of action-history for auditing purposes becomes next to impossible.

4. You can’t safely protect sensitive information.

As with any file that can be downloaded, attached to an email, and distributed, storing sensitive data in spreadsheets poses a significant threat to information security. Sure, you can password-protect a document, but that’s the IT equivalent to an on/off switch. What do you do with the users who need to see some (but not all) of the collected data? With spreadsheets, not only is your data always one step away from public view, your options for controlling what your own internal group can/should see are reduced to an all-or-nothing equation.

5. Errors are easy to make, hard to spot, and difficult to fix.

We’ve all done it. You’ve got several documents and applications open and then – whoops. You’re pretty sure the data you just entered went into the wrong window. But…did it? Depending on the type of input, it can be hard to tell. And if you’ve got multiple parties all making changes to a shared excel doc, finding the error that’s thrown off your results can be as difficult as finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

6. Version control is tough, and you can’t run analytics across multiple sheets.

There’s simply no good version control solution for spreadsheet-dependent compliance professionals. Working in a cloud environment? Either you break your process out across multiple sheets, or you’re stuck cramming your entire workflow into an ‘all-in-one’ document that can be difficult to manage. Working offline? You’re at-risk of major version-control headaches. And either way, you can’t run analytics across multiple sheets.  

7. Following internal policies becomes a challenge.

Compliance and Risk teams depend on self-generated rules and policies to protect the company and the employees themselves. These policies have specific protocols that need to be followed in order to meet internal standards. Without a dedicated CRM or case management system, orchestrating the process for internal policy adherence can be a slow and cumbersome process. Add to that the potential data insecurity of enforcing these rules via email and other data-insecure methods, and you’ve turned your internal policy into its own form of compliance risk.

A light at the end of the tunnel.

At this point, you may be ready to throw up your hands in frustration. With so many reasons not to use spreadsheets for compliance work, it’s easy to feel there exists no single solution capable of addressing these many problems.

Enter Hummingbird, an intelligent case management system and purpose-built compliance CRM. Founded by former regulators and product design specialists, Hummingbird provides an end-to-end compliance solution capable of matching the speed of modern-day financial crime.

Far from being a simple alternative to spreadsheets, Hummingbird reinvents compliance work entirely.

Here are just a few (seven, coincidentally) of the game-changing benefits Hummingbird provides. Each one represents one of the ways we can help your team move beyond spreadsheets and into a workflow designed specifically for compliance professionals.

  1. A thoughtful, clean UI with all relevant case information visible at a glance.
  2. An intelligent case management tool capable of worker time-savings of 70-90%
  3. Bulk data imports, with case auto-assignment and automated reporting
  4. Easy and direct integration with existing transaction monitoring systems, KYC, and other common data sources (ensuring case information stays up-to-date!)
  5. Data-secure work environment with SSO and custom permissions profiles
  6. Customizable workflows for efficient case escalation and adherence to policy
  7. Auto-populated Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and direct submission to FinCEN, GoAML, and many other FIUs around the world.

Interested in how to use technology to free your team from spreadsheets? Start by scheduling a demo with one of our product specialists.