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Lazar Rakovic, Marton Sakal, Pere Tumbas, Predrag Matkovic, & Veselin Pavlicevic


Most recent studies suggest that approximately one third of business data in modern organizations is generated using EUD applications developed by non-IT-specialist end-users, most frequently by use of spreadsheet applications. One of the causes of the pandemic of spreadsheet errors, which has been referred to in numerous articles, are inadequately developed end-user spreadsheet applications.

Contents pertaining to spreadsheet development offered in business-related bachelor, master and lifelong learning courses within Serbian higher education institutions are primarily based on spreadsheet techniques and capabilities, with complete disregard or marginal recognition of the need to raise awareness of risks and devastating consequences associated with spreadsheet errors.

Based on a selection of current best practices, this paper presents several proposals for updating/innovating business-oriented university courses related to spreadsheet development, with a particular focus on knowledge that students majoring in business informatics should acquire.


For the most part, creators of spreadsheets do not have professional IT knowledge and skills. Therefore, it is not of much use to explain spreadsheet development methods using a software engineering approach.

Instead, students can be presented with best practice guidelines in the form of to-do and not-to-do lists. Guidelines may include the following:

  • Documenting spreadsheets – it is useful to include an additional worksheet used only for documenting.
  • Harmonize units (measurement, currency, etc.) throughout the spreadsheet.
  • Restrict access to workbooks.
  • Introduce change management and change testing.
  • Adopt a uniform convention on naming worksheets, labels (use descriptive labels).
  • Avoid hidden rows, columns and worksheets.
  • Back up spreadsheets.
  • Separate input, calculations and output.
  • Place constants into special cells, never include them in formulas.
  • Avoid complex formulas.
  • Use colours when designing tables.
  • Assign cell names; however, in case of a large spreadsheet, avoid excessive use of cell names.
  • Protect formulas with passwords.
  • Input should be validated.
  • Pay special attention to absolute and cell references.


2015, 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, 2-3 March, pages 6874-6882

Full article

Improvement of spreadsheet skills in business-oriented university courses