Must-Read: Lisa Pollack: Testing Time for Spreadsheets

Must-Read: considerations like these make me extremely hesitant when I think of asking my students in Econ 1 next spring to do problems sets in Excel. Shouldn’t I be asking them to do it in R via R Studio or R Commander instead? Audit trails are very valuable. Debuggability is very valuable. Excel ain’t got it…

Lisa Pollack: Testing Time for Spreadsheets: “It’s an awkward truth that popular psychology books equipped me for office life better than two university degrees…

…Knowledge imparted by Working With You is Killing Me: Freeing Yourself from Emotional Traps at Work and Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up has been applied at times with daily frequency. On the other hand, insights gleaned from monetary economics have become little more than fond intellectual memories. Preparing undergraduates for the realities of the office is not the point of university, of course. But one practical module that would do everyone a world of good would be on the best use of Microsoft Excel…. Yet the attitude that ‘it’s just a spreadsheet’ prevails, and little formal training is offered. Such complacency is especially abhorrent to the specialists who belong to the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group. They recently held their 16th annual conference in London. Those attending were a mix of academics, trainers, modellers, consultants and exactly one journalist….

Are these mistakes that matter?… Within a single organisation, ‘spreadsheet practice can range from excellent to poor’, say the researchers…. Organisations will blunder on, occasionally aware, but more often entirely unaware, of the mistakes being made. As one spreadsheet risk expert wryly noted, companies often know more about their employees’ cars in the car park than they do about the spreadsheets they are using. Especially funny, that, given one needs a licence to drive a car.

August 12, 2015

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