How to debug Excel spreadsheets

Nearly 88% of spreadsheets have errors. This statistic was compiled by Ray Panko, a professor at the University of Hawaii,  after a study of 113 spreadsheets. I’ve easily worked with thousands of spreadsheets, but in my own experience I do find a high rate of errors. Of course, no one is perfect. But if we take some time to analyze the logic of our work papers we’ll find them to be a lot more reliable. After all the world looks to us to be accurate.

The article  offers some tips to debug a spreadsheet. But the first my favorite.

When initially opening a spreadsheet, first obtain a quick overall understanding of the spreadsheet, its parts, and the interaction between formulas and values.

Always take the time to understand what the sheet is trying to accomplish. Especially if these are your client’s workpaper’s you can see what data points interest them the most. For example I’ve seen at least 10 different ways to present real estate tax information, most are expense emphasized but some empathize total liability and even projected tax expenses. Taking the time to understand the inputs and outputs of the sheet is critical to both working with and troubleshooting a spreadsheet.

Other advice offered is a bit more mechanical including: Correcting the Syntax Errors, fixing incomplete calculation errors, and lastly a review of Excel’s built in error checking tools. The article provides some great info on these so I won’t duplicate it here.

A thorough review of our work papers is always needed. We want to be know for creating the best possible product possible. A careful and competent self review we can ensure our clients have the most accurate data they need.



Source: How to debug Excel spreadsheets

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