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

Spreadsheet bibliography

Title Are spreadsheet errors undermining decision-making in your organization?
Authors Jonathan P. Caulkins, Erika Layne Morrison, & Timothy Weidemann
Year 2006
Type Article
Publication Nonprofit World
Series Volume 24, Number 3, May/June, pages 26-28
Abstract

Your spreadsheets may be disasters in the making, as a new study makes clear.

Here's what to do. Strive for spreadsheets that are validated, reliable, and auditable.

Quality control in the real world means:

  • Look at the decision the spreadsheet is designed to inform. What's the impact of the decision? Will inaccuracy damage your credibility?
  • Look at the spreadsheet itself. A large or complex spreadsheet is more likely to have errors.
  • Provide a yardstick. Give employees guidelines to help them decide whether their spreadsheet needs more quality-control steps.
  • Offer training. Find training which focuses on the principles of good design, rather than simply teaching more advanced features.
  • Foster a culture of quality. Encourage good spreadsheet design, offer staff training on error reduction strategies, and insist on a full peer review of high-priority spreadsheets.
Full version Available
Sample
How to build more reliable spreadsheets

Guidelines for building more reliable spreadsheets:

  • Design separate sections for data and calculations. "Modules" of information should be separated: data in one place, calculations in another. Then data can be easily updated and calculations reviewed for accuracy. Data should be entered only once and then referenced through formulas.
  • Break long formulas into small, digestible pieces. It's easier for reviewers to follow formulas that are short, with inputs located close together on the spreadsheet.
  • Include documentation. Even the developer may not understand the spreadsheet months later! Documentation assures that spreadsheets are organizational resources for shared decision-making.
  • Keep an audit log of changes and scenarios. Identify changes for reliability.
  • Implement version control. Don't overlook the basics, such as standardizing file-naming conventions.
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