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

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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