Mention on AccountingWeb

We got a mention on AccountingWeb for the spreadsheet hell paper and the Eusprig presenation.

AccountingWeb

The stuff mentioned can be found via this post

Frankensheet got attributed to Rob Bruce ok, but versionitis should have been credited to Marcus.

I really feel that the spreadsheet quality story is beginning to get recognised. One thing that will help that in my view is the message.

Telling people their spreadsheets have errors does not work

  • a. they don’t believe you, unless you prove it on their actual work
  • and b. they dont want to hear that negative message.

I think we need to change the message, and I think the message should be:

‘spreadsheets have dangers, let us help you steer a safe and a productive path’, or something in that vein, but perhaps more eloquent.

I think that is starting to happen,  Steve Powells paper this year, where they suggested the biggest risk seemed to  be the wasted time and effort of using poor spreadsheets,  opened a few peoples eyes I think.

Have you got any views about what the message should be to encourage an improvement in spreadsheet quality?

cheers

Simon

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6 Responses to “Mention on AccountingWeb”

  1. Lord Says:

    The standard technique is computing the result in two different methods to compare. A less effective technique is parameter sensitivity analysis, but this requires a gut feeling on whether the result is right and the ability to recognize when it may be wrong.

  2. Kath McGuire Says:

    Hi Simon,

    I do really like the idea of the positive message. It can make such a huge difference given the denial that people are in and how defensive they can get if there is a suggestion that they’re not doing something properly.

    I also find in my work that the biggest issue is wasted time with spreadsheets rather than errors per se. The stress of having to hack through an unwieldy system is also frighteningly prevalent.

    I think a friendly message of helping people to improve their spreadsheets and to help them reduce their wasted time and their stress is the way to go and that training (if it works, i.e. it actually reduces their wasted time and their stress) is the best way to effect the change.

    Mind you, I would say all this, given I do work in friendly IT training! But the reason we work in this area is because we see the real need for it and the real benefits that come from it.

    Cheers,

    Kath

  3. dermot Says:

    Simon

    a couple of years ago I looked at this for a large actuarial firm, and since then I have seen how a few more large companies do it, and they are all pretty hopeless.

    I think the main reasons are
    1. people are taught by their immediate seniors, usually someone who started two years earlier. Imagine teaching driving that way!
    2. the bosses don’t know enough about spreadsheets to see the need for training in defensive modelling

  4. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    In my own experience I have found out that statements like:

    “Improve the quality (relevant, reliable and in right time) of the decision information from Excel…”

    makes sense to managers as well as their coworkers. It’s a mutual task and responsibility.

    The bottom line is that most information always has some errors (for various reasons) and by improving it we take one step in the right direction.

    After all, nothing and nobody is perfect.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  5. Jon Peltier Says:

    I think “I calculated it in Excel” falls somewhere between “I saw it on the news, it must be true” and “I read it on the internet, it must be true”. People can’t fathom that there could possibly be a mistake in the twisted pile of spaghetti in their spreadsheet.

  6. Marcus Says:

    One of the aspects to be considered is the source of the message. How often have anti-virus firms (as one example) been criticised for propagating computer virus anxiety when they are a direct beneficiary of the cure?

    Steve’s approach has merit. Scare tactics highlighting another firm’s million error is often met with an: “that would never happen to us” response. Or: “what are the odds of that happening”.

    However pointing the ROI from lost productivity is something both tangible, demonstratable and relevant.

    Regards – Marcus

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