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Monojit Ghosal & A. Bruce Caster


A process for developing spreadsheet templates that employ the general approaches of systems analysis and structured computer programming is described.

The process is called the "disciplined approach" to spreadsheet development to distinguish it from the undisciplined ad hoc (just sitting down and writing) approach that has predominated until now. The disciplined approach emphasizes the usability, reliability, understandability, and maintainability of the resulting template.

The basic philosophy of this approach is that a process concerned with building in quality is inherently superior to a process that focuses on catching and eliminating errors. The discipline approach begins with the analysis of the problem structure. The next step is to analyze the control structure. Finally, the developer must decide on a display structure.

The small amount of time invested in learning and employing this approach is more than justified by the results.


Rectangular spreadsheet arrangement
Rectangular spreadsheet arrangement

Spreadsheets should be organized into distinct sections, including:

  • Identification. Includes the name of the template, the names, addresses and phone numbers of the people who authorized, wrote, and tested the template, the date and version number of this particular version, and a brief description of its purpose and the way it works.
  • Operating information. Provides all the information needed to operate the spreadsheet.
  • Input. Data and variables to be changed by the user.
  • Output. Present results to the user.
  • Processing. Perform calculations using the input.
  • Macro. Contains not just the program code but also appropriate documentation.


1990, Business, Volume 40, number 4, October-December, pages 39-44

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