David Nixon & Mike O'Hara
It is now widely accepted that errors in spreadsheets are both common and potentially dangerous.
Further research has taken place to investigate how frequently these errors occur, what impact they have, how the risk of spreadsheet errors can be reduced by following spreadsheet design guidelines and methodologies, and how effective auditing of a spreadsheet is in the detection of these errors. However, little research exists to establish the usefulness of software tools in the auditing of spreadsheets.
This paper documents and tests office software tools designed to assist in the audit of spreadsheets. The test was designed to identify the success of software tools in detecting different types of errors, to identify how the software tools assist the auditor and to determine the usefulness of the tools.
The tests proved conclusively that spreadsheet auditing software tools can be useful. The more successful software achieved detection rates of over 80%.
The built in Excel functions scored the worst, which suggests that all is not well and that the need to go beyond the built in auditing functions exists.
However it must be remembered that software tools do not detect and correct errors, they merely point the user in the right direction.