The Spreadware Epidemic


I heard a great term coined recently: “spreadware”, and thought how apt the term was.  It speaks to the gradual expansion of spreadsheets, manual workarounds and paper processes that develop within an organization when systems are not working as they need to.

Almost every organization I meet with has this malaise.  It is a serious and insidious one since most often we are not even aware that we have it or how seriously it has spread.  I think of it as similar to gaining weight; I gain the pounds slowly over time, before I know it, I am 20 pounds overweight and opting for the elastic banded waists.  (Why is it so easy to put on the pounds and so hard to take them off?)  I believe “spreadware” is worse.  At least when I’m putting on the pounds, there is an obvious sign as my clothes are get tighter.  “Spreadware” is an organization-wide issue with each individual working at an organization affected, so it is not only myself that is affected…and the signs are truly insidious as no-one works in a vacuum, so our “spreadware” is then contagious.

So why is “spreadware” happening?  My theory follows the “life will find a way” philosophy.  Human beings who have a need will find a way to fill that need.  In the business world that way usually means spreadsheets and manual processes and many pieces of paper.  What should be providing us what we need is our systems, but they’re not doing it and so “spreadware” happens.  The more we can’t get from our systems, the more workarounds we create to fill the need.  We also need to realize that everyone at our organizations are infected.

So what’s the cure?  As we often hear, the first step to a cure is admitting that you have a problem.  Once you recognize that fact, then you need to understand the cost to your organization.  The simplest method to start is just to estimate the raw cost.  For example, take the estimated number of “spreadware” hours per employee multiplied an average annual salary.  So, if you have 100 employees with an average annual salary of $50,000 and we are very conservative and estimate an average of 8 hours per week, “spreadware” has a direct cost to our organization of almost $20,000 annually.  And those totally wasted dollars don’t account for “lost opportunity” costs, errors, lack of visibility, etc. where “spreadware” further impacts an organization.

The true cure then follows with how we eradicate the “spreadware” epidemic and that means looking to the root cause…our systems.  When we say we can’t afford new systems, we need to remember the true cost of our out-dated systems and realize we can’t afford not to do something.   Organizations need, and I would argue require, systems that contribute to the health and well being of the operations of an organization for it is only in that way that organizations can be most effective in meeting their mission.

The next step is aligning your needs with the appropriate system, and making sure that the system you select works with the culture of your organization.  We all know the shell-shocked faces of those who are diehard Outlook people when they are told that the office is moving to the cloud and Gmail will be their new mode of email communication. You can almost feel the fear rising up in them as they are about to be pushed out of their comfort zone. If you don’t take the medicine it won’t work, so getting early buy in and implementing effective processes and training are essential to getting a lasting cure.  Organizations also need to take the time to get a check up every now and then, an annual physical to ensure that the changes are working for everyone involved and that they are continuing to build strength rather than atrophy.

At the end of the day the solution is not going to be a quick fix, but nothing that is really going to cure the epidemic long term can just be another band-aid. JMT Consulting can help you diagnose, find the cure and keep your team in tip top shape, no elastic waistbands required.

For help in finding a system that can ease your “spreadware” epidemic visit us at


CATEGORIES: Best Practices