|Title||Spreadsheet issues: Pitfalls, best practices, and practical tips|
|Authors||Mary Pat Campbell|
|Publication||Actuarial Practice Forum|
Spreadsheets are one of the largest workhorses in actuarial work and business work in general, but few of us have serious, rigorous training in their use and design. We usually pick up knowledge and skills through assignments on an as-needed basis, which can prevent a methodical approach to the technology. Alas, I have not created any such needed methodical approach, but I have found a variety of resources, general theories, and specific practices that you may wish to put into effect in your own work.
Below I assemble material I've written, originally published in CompAct, the newsletter for the Society of Actuaries' Technology Section. I start out with "To Err is Human; To Correct, Divine," where I highlight the general problem of spreadsheet errors and point to some useful resources. The next four sections are from a series titled "The End Users Justify the Means" ostensibly about spreadsheet design based on the end users, but the main themes are both usability as well as error-prevention. Finally, I review some presentations given at the 2009 European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group Annual Conference, which gives one an idea the type of research and work that is being done in this realm.
I hope the ideas found herein may be useful in one's day-to-day work with spreadsheets. Most of the ideas originate with others, and what may be even more useful is the list of my original resources at the end of this paper. This paper is directed primarily toward those who create or maintain spreadsheets, but their managers can also gain valuable insights from the material presented here.
This spreadsheet is used to illustrate general principles or issues considered in designing user interfaces for the general public.