Improved Management, Distribution and Review of Spreadsheets

How to manage and securely distribute spreadsheets with just a few clicks.

September 24, 2007
Sponsored by Adobe Systems, Inc.

Managing complex spreadsheets is a daily rigor for financial professionals. We create and manage multi sheet workbooks that have multiple complex formulas, pivot tables and macros. Better yet we have spreadsheets that are linked to one or more saved and protected spreadsheets that include calculation tables, rates, etc. As financial professionals we have no problem creating and managing these types of workbooks and spreadsheets. Our challenge in managing these documents becomes apparent when we have to share or send the document to others outside our department or better yet outside our company.

Let’s look at this scenario:

It’s the end of the month and it’s time for you to create and update your spreadsheets with the figures for the period. You go through your processes of collecting spreadsheets and workbooks from your staff and other departments. You create your links, spend the time to format each sheet into the “Requested” format or view, check the figures again and then you need to distribute your work.

Distributing your work is where you take a leap of faith. Before e-mail and dispersed management teams it was easy to print out the reports to ensure that they are in your desired format and all columns and rows are displayed the way you want them. Above this you knew that you put the spreadsheet into the hands of the individuals that were meant to receive it. Your leap of faith now is attaching your work to an email and hitting send.

You have now sent an Excel workbook or spreadsheet to individuals via e-mail. When they open up the spreadsheet they won’t necessarily have the same view and print settings as you do. This doesn’t even take into account information from your linked cells that may not be displayed. For example you send the report to a manager in Europe and his defaults are set to a different paper size for viewing and printing. This will realign parts of the report or the entire report. This example does happen and when it does you will spend valuable time helping the reviewer understand the numbers in a different format.

Beyond just sending the document how do you ensure that it is viewed only by those that are supposed to read it? The question is, “Is your company data secure?” Even if you send it to the appropriate managers how to you make sure they don’t forward the data on to someone who is not privy to the information?

Here at Adobe Systems Inc., we have a very simple solution to the above problems. When sharing sensitive documents such as month-end and quarter-end financials, we use Adobe Acrobat. With Acrobat 8 we can save a multi-page Excel workbook into a PDF that anyone can read and provide electronic comments and signatures.

We use the standard spreadsheet program for collecting and combining our financial data but when it comes to sharing the document it is always combined and saved in PDF format. The main benefits of this are:

  • The format of the spreadsheet will be preserved and viewed the same by everyone whether they view it with the free Adobe Reader or with any version of Acrobat.

  • Digital signatures can be applied to the document as proof of acceptance and review.

  • Review and comment can take place on the spreadsheet without compromising the original data and providing you with an audit trail of changes.

  • Security can be placed on the financial reports that can block the viewer from copying, printing or altering the document.

  • Using the Acrobat Document Center we can make the report expire, revoke the report, block recipients from forwarding and copying the report and get a report on who has and hasn’t opened the report.

Using these features of Acrobat 8 helps the financial departments at Adobe present our financial data in a consistent manner ensuring that everyone is looking at the same data in the same format. The review and comment features are invaluable to us protecting the integrity of the original spreadsheet and collecting auditable comments. Additionally, with the security features of Acrobat to create a high degree of certainty that our spreadsheets and reports are viewed only by those who should.

These are the best practices that we use in our day to day financial processes and we are sure that you will find them valuable as well.

For more information visit Adobe.