Microsoft’s Excel Might Be The Most Dangerous Software On The Planet


Spreadsheets: An inappropriate tool for audit and assurance professionals

By Peter Millar


According to Forbes, Microsoft’s Excel Might Be The Most Dangerous Software On The Planet.

At last! I no longer feel so all alone. Truth be told, I’m not alone and lots of others have been saying the same thing about spreadsheets for years – I say spreadsheets because I don’t think it’s fair or reasonable to single out Microsoft’s spreadsheet product over any of the remaining others… Take for instance The European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group – the risk has to be real if there’s an organization named after it!

But to put things into perspective, spreadsheets are so pervasive because they are so darned good at crunching numbers and free form data manipulation. I think the modern world would come to a screeching halt if spreadsheets suddenly vanished! So like any good risk, one needs to have some controls around their use. One must remember that risk isn’t a bad thing. Taking risks is what life is all about. The catch is learning how to identify risks and how to manage them once they’ve been identified.

I believe that spreadsheets are a highly appropriate tool to use in a huge variety of applications. They are, however, an inappropriate tool for audit and assurance professionals who are engaged in the data-oriented aspects of their trade. I’m a believer of purpose-built technologies that safeguard the user from the exact risks that spreadsheets introduce. That’s why I went to the trouble of writing this White Paper and contributing to the IIA practice guide on data analysis technologies – GTAG #16.

An additional capability associated with spreadsheets is the macro. So many neat things can be done with macros. But who writes them? Who documents what they do? Who tests them to make sure they haven’t introduced errors into the calculations? Here is a bit more guidance on that: The IIA GTAG on user-developed applications provides some leading practices in this area.

Find out more: ACL Blog

Monday, April 1, 2013 In: Hot Topics Comments (None)

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