I spend a fair amount of my time (in fact rather too much of it) designing financial models and forecasts for my clients. I use bespoke modelling software and I maintain a strict control over who gets access to it – especially among the “C Suite” – In my experience it’s the Directors and senior managers who will endlessly tinker with things (is that the sound of an evaporating client base I can hear in the distance?).

I mentioned to a prospective client only yesterday that I regard excel spreadsheets as one of the most dangerous weapons on the planet. Without wishing to belittle the devastating suffering caused by those who trade in arms – or indeed those who choose to help making them – it’s probably a good time of year to have a look at some of the horrors that a badly controlled spreadsheet can cause.

You’ll see from the link that there are some world class organisations referenced in the publication. If they are capable of messing up on such a scale it might be a good idea to accept that you could too.

I am constantly suspicious of advisors who tell me they have modelled a company’s P&L, balance sheet and cash flow using excel spreadsheets, often collecting data via hotlinks from a multitude of users in the organisation. It may be an exercise in cleverness, but it’s nothing more than dangerous hubris. I would bet that the integrity has been compromised somewhere.

Did you know there was such a body as the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group? you do now. www.eusprig.org – they have some interesting tales to tell on their website, so have a look.

But for sheer entertainment, have a look at this link to a publication produced by the modelling organisation F1F9. It might make you chuckle – but you should think about how you control spreadsheets within your own organisation. You may need to copy and paste the link into your browser.


Happy Halloween to spreadsheet enthusiasts everywhere.

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