Compulsory Training

Do you think spreadsheet training should be compulsory for certain people?

If so who? Users of critical spreadsheets? all users of spreadsheets? developers of spreadsheets?

And what about testing and certification? should spreadsheet users need a certificate to be allowed to build certain spreadsheets?

Never mind the mechanics of how/who might do it, should it be the case?

If it meant a few quid more per day would you get certified?

I read something the other day saying vendor certifications were an absolute clear sign of lack of experience and poor candidate quality. what do you think?

would you pay more for the services of someone you thought was ‘certified’ as having a certain level of knowledge? What about if they had extra insurance or support or something else (what?).?



9 Responses to “Compulsory Training”

  1. Bob Phillips Says:

    How about the Microsoft Office team?

    I always think that certification is a bit like an ISO standard, great idea, but it becomes the purpose rather than any clear indictaion.

  2. geoffness Says:

    Having seen some absolute dog’s breakfasts used in critical reporting and decision-making, I say yes to training. It would come down to an organisation’s understanding of the technology, i.e. the business owner/sponsor of the project needs to understand the modelling process, and demand someone who also understands it, and can demonstrate experience in it.

    I don’t think I would bother with certification. My thinking on certification in general is that it may make your skills more portable to overseas job markets but not necessarily any more compelling to a potential employer/client – and it’s often a significant investment to make for something that’s not going to add any new skills or knowledge.

  3. Greg Says:

    Most of the training I’ve seen at my company is superficial at best. Probably the best training is getting your hands dirty by using the software regularly, although a little training might help if you’ve never opened a spreadsheet before. Certifications should help in getting past the HR screeners if you’re looking for a new job and have little experience, but certifications are definitely not a replacement for experience.

  4. Giles Says:

    There are two ways you can make sure everyone doing a job is trained:

    – Give them training once they have the job. In my experience this doesn’t work very well; people regard compulsory training as an unwelcome distraction from getting their job done, and it doesn’t get taken seriously. For example, the HR orientation sessions anyone starting work at a big company has to sit through.

    – Requiring people who apply for the job to have been certified. This is better, but the certification is as good as the certification authority is; in particular, vendors have an incentive to maximise the number of people who are certified on their software, so (for example) if Resolver Systems offered a certification program, we’d have an incentive to make it as easy as possible so that more people mentioned our company on their CVs… so IMO only independent certification really makes sense.

    OTOH, how useful is the training if you can’t guarantee the lessons learned will be usefully applied? I’m sure any decent spreadsheet training course would say “if you’re preparing a final copy of a spreadsheet that has hidden rows, and those hidden rows don’t affect the results of the spreadsheet, make sure you delete them before sending it off.” But would the person who was processing the list of Lehmans derivatives have necessarily remembered that specific lesson?



  5. Harlan Grove Says:

    I just endured some online computer-based training for Business Objects. I learned that clicking on the little + button expands the branches of a hierarchical list. I learned that clicking on the padlock icon in the toolbar closes BO. Fine example of prepackaged corporate training.

    As for spreadsheet certification, I don’t have any, but I’ve been building models for more than 2 decades, and I haven’t been fired for any screw-ups yet. But I’m curious whether I’d need PHP, Java or .Net certification if I decided to move fat client spreadsheet models to browser-based thin client apps. Do I need to be certified in batch file programming to be allowed to use them? Not an idle question because one of the models I built and maintain creates batch files on the fly that runs a text mode simulation program (which I translated from FORTRAN to C), and the batch file runs various FINDSTR procedures on the simulation output before returning to the calling Excel macro which reads the extracts back into the workbook.

    The ideal assessment of a prospective employee’s competence would be giving them a practical test – here are specs and data, you have 20 minutes to build a prototype model. Probably illegal in most jurisdictions.

  6. Giles Says:

    That’s a great point, Harlan — practical tests are fantastic interview tools. I don’t know of any legal problems here in the UK, so what we do for programmers is quite literally to ask them to work on a real problem, sitting side-by-side with one of the other programmers here. It seems to work better than any other system I’ve tried.



  7. Bob Phillips Says:

    I would like the see anyone try and sack you Harlan, I bet they would be crushed under the verbal assault .

    In what way could that test be illegal?

  8. Harlan Grove Says:

    I was being somewhat cynical. I interviewed years ago with a company that had me first take a psychological test: a column of words printed on a few pages and for each I had to write down the first word that came into my mind in another column. Actually it may have been a half-assed vocabulary/IQ test – did I understand what each of the words meant, and how long did it take me to complete it. I’d like to say only in California, but I’ve heard of similar tests in Texas and Florida. Anyway, such tests were banned by law in California more recently (but still years ago) probably because they were vocabulary/IQ tests and therefore inherently discriminatory according to US standards.

  9. Bruce R. Says:

    There are two certification programs where the interested person can get certified as far as cost estimating is concerned. The first is a Certified Cost Estimator/Analyst certification offered through the Society of Cost Estimating and Analysis. The second is the Certified Cost Engineer (CCE) or Certified Cost Consultant (CCC) offered through the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE). Then, of course, there’s the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) if you want to prepare taxes for the rest of your life. It goes without saying that a rigorous knowledge of Excel is required before you can become a really great cost estimator or accountant, because often times the estimator or accountant is provided with a very aggressive and short schedule in order to produce the deliverable.

    There really has to be a foundation in some kind of cost estimating, engineering or accounting knowledge and then combine this with the best practices found in Excel in order to produce Excel deliverables that can withstand the scrutiny of external bodies, such as auditing firms, and venture capital providers. In my opinion, it is the marriage of professions that are deterministic and logical and make use of large quantities of numbers and math along with Excel that produce the best practice and most valuable and practical examples of Excel that one sees in the world.

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