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4 signs that spreadsheet software is no longer the right tool for your privacy management

As part of GDPR-compliance, you have to be able to demonstrate your compliance, also known as accountability. That’s why you must document your processing activities and maintain records on several things such as processing purposes, data sharing and retention. This documentation can also help you comply with other aspects of the GDPR and improve your data governance.

For many businesses and organisations, is the starting point for this kind of privacy management. It’s an application that easily lets you organise, analyse and store data in tabular form, it’s been around since the late 80’s and there are numerous tutorials to help you master it.

But while spreadsheet software such as Excel might be a great place to start your privacy management, it does have its limits. So here’s four signs that spreadsheet software might no longer be the right tool for your privacy management.

1. You’ve created a record of your processing activities,
but now you need to maintain it..

Spreadsheet software might work when you first start your privacy management. But as your company grows, the data you collect will change. Your customers change, your applications (and its processing activities) change, third parties change, people will exercise their rights, etc. Before you know it, spreadsheet software is no longer that convenient tool that keeps it clear and structured.

2. You have a larger team and want to delegate tasks

Working together in spreadsheet software can really be a challenge and can quickly result in miscommunications. And when it comes to delegation of tasks, getting people to do their part and monitoring of progress, spreadsheet software quickly starts showing its limits.

3. Broken formulas everywhere..

One of the key features of a spreadsheet is the ability for a formula to refer to the content of another cell. This cell in turn can display the result of a formula. These formulas are easy to make, as you can simply replace a number with a cell reference. Spreadsheet software gains its power through the ability to chain formulas together and by breaking down problems into a series of individual mathematical steps, which can be assigned to individual formulas in cells.

However, the errors in spreadsheets tend to have a waterfall effect. Because your data processing activities change, many users will add and delete cells. But if one cell in your spreadsheet is wrongfully deleted or added, this will have large consequences down the line. Delete or add one cell where you were not supposed to, and spreadsheet software will miscalculate any relevant calculations. This might not only lead to a wrong representation of the data you collect but can also cost you quite the time and resources to find the error(s).

4. You want more than just multiple spreadsheets

With a spreadsheet, you are essentially creating one table, whereas with a database, you are using a collection of many tables with machine-readable semantic relationships between them. While you can create a workbook that contains several sheets, which can contain multiple tables that can interact with each other, a workbook lacks the relational structure of a database.

It is here that many users encounter a spreadsheet software greatest problem, which is often not noticeable until it is too late, namely inconsistent spreadsheets. You see this all the time. Because you need to manually add and change data in multiple worksheets, there is no central hub for its management. And the bigger an organisation gets, the more likely it is to face it. It then becomes increasingly hard to spot the problem. And although it is viable to merge two spreadsheets, it becomes increasingly difficult to know which spreadsheet is right and which is wrong.

So what can you do?

If spreadsheet software doesn’t work for you anymore, you should probably check out privacy management software like Privacy Nexus. Privacy Nexus is SaaS that helps you with all kinds of privacy management.

With Privacy Nexus you get:

  • A convenient register for your processing activities and databases. Map and maintain your register while keeping an eye on possible risks and complications you might run into.

  • An easy way of creating ownership and accountability within your organisation. Assign work to other users within the software and watch when and how they perform it.

  • Audit trails to help you figure out how certain information came to be and to showcase your effort towards compliance.

  • A driver’s seat for your (D)PO. The extensive dashboards in Privacy Nexus show all the relevant information within your privacy administration, giving you an easy way to pinpoint areas that need attention.

  • And much more!

If the information above peaks your interest, then request a demo for Privacy Nexus. We’d love to show you our software! You can request a demo, right here.

Author image
Diederik The
Product Owner Privacy Nexus bij Privacy Company.


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