Excel headline

Harlan posted a link to this:

Lehman Excel snafu could cost Barclays dear.

The last time spreadsheets/Excel made the headlines was the SocGen debacle, I think,

Anyway in this particular case I would dispute that its some kind of Excel blunder. More appropriate:

  1. Unrealistic deadlines
  2. Inexperienced poorly supervised users
  3. Lack of testing and checking
  4. Software fail – the pdf converter didn’t respect the user view
  5. Other?

What do you think?



5 Responses to “Excel headline”

  1. Anthony Says:

    The cause is clear – an attorney working in excel. Attorney’s need to stick with Word and leave Excel to the accountant’s, and the world will function much better.

  2. Bob Phillips Says:

    Is that an ironic statement, leave Excel to accountants?

  3. Ross Says:

    Well it’s just a misktake, I dont think it really blames Excel for it does it?
    Also it was not a fomating error, it was including data that should not have been inculded. Clearly the time issue was to blame for this!

  4. Excel rookie costs Barclays - Code For Excel And Outlook Blog Says:

    […] sure you’ve all heard it by now. I first read about it on Simon Murphy’s blog, but it looks like a rookie mistake with Excel might have caused Barclay’s to acquire more of […]

  5. Al Gill Says:

    Actually I would count this as a problem arising from spreadsheet risk. This is not a criticism of Excel (or other spreadsheets). One of the reasons Excel gets so many people into hot water is that (ribbon notwithstanding) it’s so b*** easy to use and it’s actually pretty good at a lot of jobs.

    Comments on Simon’s comments:-
    1) Yes the deadlines were tight but there are quite a lot of situations which are either bid or die. The key thing here is to realise that you can’t do an all-singing all-dancing spreadsheet in ten minutes and expect it to be right. You need to understand what’s most important commercially and focus on that.

    2) Yep – inexperienced and poorly supervised. Traditional management attitude that converting the spreadsheet to pdf and making sure the right stuff gets out is a low value job and is beneath them. Sure turned out to be low value this time didn’t it guys ;-) Also, management should be aware of the risk of this sort of thing. Some (rare) senior people are and will take steps to manage this problem – like maybe a checksum for the number of contracts you thought you were buying?

    3) Oh yeah – a checksum! Actually there’s a guy I used to work with who would probably have insisted that everybody in the bank checked the final version (not as stupid as it sounds – see Ray Panko’s stats on second / third pairs of eyes).

    4) Arguable whether it was the software or the lawyers using it. I wonder what the design doc. said. I wonder if the lawyers had to select the convert user view / spreadsheet button.

    5) Hmm – lawyers + spreadsheets = doh! Actually there’ve been a lot of comments saying that people should have left the spreadsheets to the accountants. I’d take this with a pinch of salt – the evidence is that accountants are just as bad with spreadsheets as the rest of us. If I were feeling vindictive I might comment that lawyers are often arts graduates and inumerate. All of us are from the hard sciences (or at worst the softer sciences)

    Anybody want to comment on how easy it would have been to put the same info. into Access (which they probably also had on their desktop) and do cute little SQL generated reports. I mean – for that sort of money you could justify paying three of the best Access guys in London GBP 10,000 a day each for the three days or so of work it would have taken (even if they were trying to string it out to a business week).

    Here endeth the rant for today, Al

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