Excel Warriors

The war between wetware and hardware.
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Witness
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Excel Warriors

Post by Witness »

Meet the Excel warriors saving the world from spreadsheet disaster

Spreadsheets run the world. When they break, governments and companies turn to an elite group of experts to save the day

David Lyford-Smith is an expert at solving spreadsheet mysteries. Once, in a previous job, he was sent a payroll form to look over for a new starter. It had the number 40,335 in a random box, and payroll wasn’t clear why it was there. “So they assumed it was a joining bonus for the employee and drew up a draft pay slip with a £40,335 bonus,” he says. But, when it comes to spreadsheets, assumptions can be costly.

Lyford-Smith isn’t just a spreadsheet enthusiast. He’s the technical manager for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), running its Excel community group — and as such has always been suspicious of numbers in that range. “That’s how Excel stores dates, as serial numbers,” he says. He was right: that wasn’t a generous signing bonus, but the new hire’s starting date.

Lyford-Smith is part of a community of accountants, auditors and Excel power users who have joined forces in a quiet battle against illogical formulas, copy-and-paste errors, and structural chaos that cause data carnage.

Last week, the government stumbled into its own spreadsheet nightmare when it admitted contact-tracing efforts were stymied by a simple data processing mistake. They’re not the first to fall victim to the curse of Excel – and they won’t be the last either. Last year, Canadian marijuana grower Canopy Growth had to correct its quarterly earnings after incorrectly posting a £40 million loss — the real figure was £88m, miscalculated by a formula error. The company’s stock fell two per cent. Boeing leaked employees’ personal data in a hidden spreadsheet column. An investment bank analysis of Tesla’s purchase of Solar City undervalued the company by $400m after double counting its debt in a spreadsheet. These may be egregious errors, but they are hardly uncommon.

Research suggests more than 90 per cent of spreadsheets have errors, and half of spreadsheet models used in large businesses have “material defects”. Given some 750 million people use Excel globally, there are plenty of errors needing attention. One prominent researcher calls spreadsheets the dark matter of corporate IT. And that’s why people like Lyford-Smith have become defenders of the spreadsheet, mitigating the risks by fixing everyone else’s mistakes.
https://www.wired.co.uk/article/spreads ... cel-errors for the rest.
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Bruce
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Re: Excel Warriors

Post by Bruce »

Pathetic.
Such potential!
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Hotarubi
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Re: Excel Warriors

Post by Hotarubi »

Didnt the UK's COVID contact tracing app completely gum up because the info was being stored on spreadsheet rows - and once the data entries reached 65536 rows the fucker gave up?
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Doctor X
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Re: Excel Warriors

Post by Doctor X »

Hotarubi wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 5:31 pm Didnt the UK's COVID contact tracing app completely gum up because the info was being stored on spreadsheet rows - and once the data entries reached 65536 rows the fucker gave up?
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Bruce
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Re: Excel Warriors

Post by Bruce »

Hotarubi wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 5:31 pm Didnt the UK's COVID contact tracing app completely gum up because the info was being stored on spreadsheet rows - and once the data entries reached 65536 rows the fucker gave up?
65536

Magical number for Excel veterans. :mrgreen:
Such potential!