Spreadsheet “Worst Practices”

by Erin McCune on August 3, 2008

in Accounting, Careers, Finance, Financial Reporting, Technology


Attention Excel users! A couple related articles from CFO.com on spreadsheet worst practices and how to fix them. The first article generated so many emails that they published a follow up with even more tips.

Spreadsheet "Worst Practices"
Here's how finance executives abuse the most-useful of computer programs — and how to do better.
Shahid Ansari and Richard Block
CFO.com | US
May 14, 2008

Sloppy Spreadsheets: Readers Speak Out
Readers make some pointed additions to CFO.com's "worst practices" list.
CFO.com Staff
CFO.com | US
June 18, 2008

Spreadsheet Worst Practices

  1. Poor segregation of data (don't embed data in formulas)
  2. Poor documentation of assumptions (leads to misinterpretation, or worse yet, forgetting why you used the numbers you did)
  3. Poor documentation of constraints (interim calculations highlight data
    difficulty, faulty assumptions, and misapplied algorithms)
  4. Difficulties in making changes (build spreadsheets anticipating that
    you'll be asked to modify and recalculate with a variety of different
  5. "Now It's Here; Now It's Not" (retain original calculations for comparison to what-if scenarios)
  6. The Presentation Readiness Problem (include meaningful column and row labels so that the entire spreadsheet can be easily incorporated into PowerPoint)

The article includes examples of both worst and best practices that you can download. And the follow up article includes rants and raves from readers and even more tips.

And don't forget my previous post on Excel Tips and Tricks (my clients are still amazed by the easy gantt chart)

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