Why you can’t rely on Spreadsheets


News broke on the weekend of 16,000 COVID-19 cases being missed due to an IT glitch, pretty serious right? As I’m sure many of you are aware, IT glitches are part and parcel of working in an industry that relies so heavily on data input. Anything from updates to network dropouts, these are all pretty common glitches that we all face on a weekly/monthly basis. Losing a couple of files may not be as important as 16,000 Coronavirus cases being missed but it’s still pretty annoying.

Some of you reading this may be wondering “well what has the government losing 16,000 cases got to do with spreadsheet reliability?” The answer: – the positive results are kept in a spreadsheet meaning those 16,000 positive cases were missed because an Excel spreadsheet had reached its maximum capacity and had not updated. According to the Daily Mail, the reason behind 16,000 people not knowing they’d tested positive for COVID-19 and potentially passing the virus on to many others, is because the lab in question is still using spreadsheets to house their data. Again, pretty serious.

Surely the Government have now realised the need for a more secure way of tracking and tracing positive COVID-19 tests? You’d like to think so, but no. In the same Daily Mail article, they quote “The technical issue has now been resolved by splitting the Excel files into batches”. This opens up a whole new worry as not only is the data STILL being stored in an unreliable spreadsheet, there are now batches of spreadsheets that again could easily become a victim of an unsuspected “IT Glitch”!