EuSpRIG 2010

We recently presented Sumwise at the annual EuSpRIG (European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group) conference in London.

Our talk, titled Sumwise – A Smarter Spreadsheet, was well received and we had many questions and compliments following the presentation. For us this represented an important milestone as it was the first time we have discussed and demonstrated Sumwise to a public audience.

Here’s a screen shot of the simple Sumwise model that we referred to in our talk.

Sumwise model demonstrated at EuSpRIG conference 2010

The good news is that we are now firmly on track to open up Sumwise in a limited Beta release later this year. As I mentioned at the end of the talk, if you are interested in previewing Sumwise before the public Beta launch, please email us.

One of the themes coming out of this year’s conference was the issue of “spreadsheet modelling best practice”. There are a number of organisations (including Operis and F1F9 who were both at the conference) who specialise in model building, review and training, and who advocate their own set of guidelines or best practices for building spreadsheets. It seems everyone has the same end goal in mind — that is, spreadsheets which are easier to: build, understand, review, modify and hand over, with the lowest likelihood of containing errors. However, it is quite clear that most experts do not agree on what these guidelines should be.

For example, take the (seemingly) simple issue of Range Names — are they a good idea or a bad idea? Well, F1F9′s methodology calls for “limited use of Excel Names” in order to minimise complexity and improve maintainability, whereas Operis’s methodology advocates extensive use of range names. Who is right? In my experience it seems that most commentators support the use of range names, with only Blood and Panko raising serious concerns, and ongoing research being done by McKeever et al supports these concerns. I have my own view of range names, which I won’t get into here — but the point is — if experienced experts cannot agree on whether something as simple as range names is a good idea for serious spreadsheet modelling, what hope do we have of coming up with an agreed view of spreadsheet best practice?

Anyway, the last half hour or so of the EuSpRIG conference was devoted to whether it was possible to come up with a definitive list of spreadsheet best practice guidelines. The general view was that this would be worthwhile, and should be possible, and that it should be done under the EuSpRIG banner. However, it is not going to be easy. To have any real value these guidelines need to have some depth, but getting agreement on deep spreadsheet design concepts is not going to be easy.

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