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Old 06-25-2008, 10:05 AM
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Eddie Smith
Join Date: May 2003
College: UGA
Posts: 9,129

Originally Posted by campbell View Post
So, after I've written a few articles on general principles of preventing/detecting spreadsheet error, I'm looking to see what direction I should go in.

I've got an idea for a technical article, talking about loss of precision in using floating-point arithmetic, and some tricks to consider to reduce that sort of thing (numerical analysis sorts of ideas.... I know quite a few actuaries have been exposed to this, but many more have not.)

Another idea was dealing with end-user risks, considerations, resources, etc.

Any ideas from people? What kinds of computing/programming/spreadsheet errors/issues would you like to read about?
I think one huge problem is poor or no documentation for complex spreadsheets. This would include problems like VBA code that lacks comments or just really large, complex spreadsheets taht lack an "Instructions" tab or accompanying document that outlines their purpose and rules for updating, maintaining, and using.

Poor documentation results in the following problems/risks:

1) Significant lost productivity for future users (technical or not) as they have to spend hours to days to months trying to understand the spreadsheet.

2) Misuse due to lack of understanding of the spreadsheet.

3) Lack of use of the spreadsheet or using spreadsheet to only part of its potential.

4) Having to rebuild the spreadsheet by a future user (call it "re-invent the wheel risk").

I think this risk is particularly high in environments with high turnover. I think advanced spreadsheet users tend to design spreadsheets in a "for my eyes only" way. I'm guilty of this myself. The key is realizing that your product is near useless in the future if you don't document it or don't take the time to "teach" it to someone else.

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