A significant proportion of spreadsheets have severe quality problems.
Ayalew (2007)
Every study, without exception, has found error rates much higher than organizations would wish to tolerate.
Panko (1999)
Your spreadsheets may be disasters in the making.
Caulkins, Morrison, & Weidemann (2006)
The results given by spreadsheets are often just wrong.
Sajaniemi (1998)
60% of large companies feel 'Spreadsheet Hell' describes their reliance on spreadsheets.
Murphy (2007)
Programmers exhibit unwarranted confidence in the correctness of their spreadsheets.
Krishna, et al (2001)
Spreadsheets are more fault-prone than other software.
Kulesz & Ostberg (2013)
Spreadsheets have a notoriously high number of faults.
Rust, et al (2006)
Spreadsheet development must embrace extensive testing in order to be taken seriously as a profession.
Bock (2016)
The issue is not whether there is an error but how many errors there are and how serious they are.
Panko (2007)
It is now widely accepted that errors in spreadsheets are both common and potentially dangerous.
Nixon & O'Hara (2010)
Spreadsheets are dangerous to their authors and others.
Durusau & Hunting (2015)
Research on spreadsheet errors is substantial, compelling, and unanimous.
Panko (2015)
Studies have shown that there is a high incidence of errors in spreadsheets.
Csernoch & Biro (2013)
Errors in spreadsheets are as ubiquitous as spreadsheets themselves.
Colbenz (2005)
Spreadsheets are commonly used and commonly flawed.
Caulkins, Morrison, & Weidemann (2008)
Overconfidence is one of the most substantial causes of spreadsheet errors.
Sakal, et al (2015)
The quality and reliability of spreadsheets is known to be poor.
Bishop & McDaid (2007)
Spreadsheets are easy to use and very hard to check.
Chen & Chan (2000)
A lot of decisions are being made on the basis of some bad numbers.
Ross (1996)
Spreadsheet errors have resulted in huge financial losses.
Abraham & Erwig (2007)
Errors in spreadsheets... result in incorrect decisions being made and significant losses incurred.
Beaman, et al (2005)
...few incidents of spreadsheet errors are made public and these are usually not revealed by choice.
Kruck & Sheetz (2001)
Never assume a spreadsheet is right, even your own.
Raffensperger (2001)
Spreadsheet errors are still the rule rather than the exception.
Nixon & O'Hara (2010)
It is irrational to expect large error-free spreadsheets.
Panko (2013)
Spreadsheets are alarmingly error-prone to write.
Paine (2001)
Even obvious, elementary errors in very simple, clearly documented spreadsheets are... difficult to find.
Galletta, et al (1993)
Spreadsheets are notoriously error-prone.
Cunha, et al (2011)
The untested spreadsheet is as dangerous and untrustworthy as an untested program.
Price (2006)
Spreadsheet errors are pervasive, stubborn, ubiquitous and complex.
Irons (2003)
Most large spreadsheets have dozens or even hundreds of errors.
Panko & Ordway (2005)
Spreadsheet errors... a great, often unrecognised, risk to corporate decision making & financial integrity.
Chadwick (2002)
Spreadsheets are extraordinarily and unacceptably prone to error.
Dunn (2010)
Spreadsheets are often hard, if not impossible, to understand.
Mireault & Gresham (2015)
Spreadsheets... pose a greater threat to your business than almost anything you can imagine.
Howard (2005)
Untested spreadsheets are riddled with errors.
Miller (2005)
Despite overwhelming and unanimous evidence... companies have continued to ignore spreadsheet error risks.
Panko (2014)
Spreadsheets can be viewed as a highly flexible programming environment for end users.
Abreu, et al (2015)
Spreadsheets contain errors at an alarmingly high rate.
Abraham, et al (2005)
94% of the 88 spreadsheets audited in 7 studies have contained errors.
Panko (2008)
1% of all formulas in operational spreadsheets are in error.
Powell, Baker, & Lawson (2009)
Despite being staggeringly error prone, spreadsheets are a highly flexible programming environment.
Abreu, et al (2015)
Spreadsheets are the most popular live programming environments, but they are also notoriously fault-prone.
Hermans & van der Storm (2015)
Spreadsheet shortcomings can significantly hamper an organization's business operation.
Reschenhofer & Matthes (2015)
People tend to believe their spreadsheets are more accurate than they really are.
Caulkins, Morrison, & Weidemann (2006)
Most executives do not really check or verify the accuracy or validity of [their] spreadsheets...
Teo & Tan (1999)
Developing an error-free spreadsheet has been a problem since the beginning of end-user computing.
Mireault (2015)
Every study that has looked for errors has found them... in considerable abundance.
Panko & Halverson (1996)
The software that end users are creating... is riddled with errors.
Burnett & Myers (2014)

Spreadsheet bibliography

Title Spreadsheets - 90+ million end user programmers with no comment tracking or version control
Authors Patrick Durusau & Sam Hunting
Year 2015
Type Proceedings
Publication Balisage: The Markup Conference
Series Balisage Series on Markup Technologies, volume 15, August

Stephen Gandel's Damn Excel! How the 'most important software application of all time' is ruining the world is NOT an indictment of Excel. It is an indictment of the inability to:

  • Link spreadsheets to emails.
  • Track relationships between cells and between cells and formulas.
  • Track comments on spreadsheet errors.
  • Have versioning for cell contents/formulas.

Without those capabilities, spreadsheets are dangerous to their authors and others.

How dangerous you ask? A short list of horror stories would include:

  • 2013, the "London Whale," JPMorgan Chase, lost £250 million.
  • 2013, error in calculation of international Government debt to GDP ratios.
  • 2012, JPMorgan Chase loses $6.2 billion due to a spreadsheet formula error.
  • 2011, MF Global collapses, in part due to the use of spreadsheets to track assets and liabilities.
  • 2010, US Federal Reserve, spreadsheet error on calculation of $4 billion in Consumer Revolving Credit.

The EuSpRIG Horror Stories page has a generous sampling of more spreadsheet horror stories.

Statistically speaking, F1F9 estimates: "88% of all spreadsheets have errors in them, while 50% of spreadsheets used by large companies have material defects, resulting in loss of time and money, damaged reputations, lost jobs and disrupted careers".

If that weren't bad enough, other research indicates that 33% of all bad business decisons are traceable to spreadsheet errors. That's right, 33% of all bad business decisions. That's a business case looking for a solution. Yes?

Disclaimer: Topic maps, even a legend based on the Topic Maps Reference Model, ISO/IEC 13250-5 (2015), cannot magically prevent fraud, stupidity or human error. Topic maps can enable the modeling of relationships within spreadsheets, create comment tracking on errors/spreadsheets, even when the comments are in emails, and explore the subject identities and merging practices required for content level versioing of spreadsheets. Our goal is to empower you to detect fraud, stupidity and human error.

On the technical side, we will analyze real world spreadsheets, determine subjects to be represented and how to identify them, create a legend that will constrain the representatives of subjects (using ordinary XML tools), create a topic map of an actual spreadsheet and review our results against the known requirements to improve auditing of spreadsheets. The auditing process itself will be shown to be auditable.

Full version Available
Plimpton 322 tablet
Plimpton 322 tablet
The Babylonian tablet Plimpton 322, from around 1800 BCE, is a form of spreadsheet. It lists Pythagorean triples, that is integers w, l, d such that w2 + l2 = d2. The highlighted area, like almost all spreadsheets, contains an error.
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