Simon Hurst, one of the members who worked to assemble the publication, examines ICAEW's twenty principles for good spreadsheet practice.
For those that haven’t read it already, John Stokdyk’s article on the recent launch of the Twenty Principles is an excellent introduction and sets out the single page overview of the principles together with a link to the full document.
I don’t intend to go through the principles in detail or to try and justify or promote individual elements – the principles were presented for public consultation in advance of the launch as an exposure draft and some of the resultant discussions can be found on the ICAEW IT Counts site and AccountingWEB. Instead, I’m going to set out my view as to what the principles might achieve:
My hopes for the principles are relatively modest. I’d like to think they would help individuals and organisations of all sizes and types avoid some career/business threatening spreadsheet errors.
I also hope that they might save business billions of pounds worth of time and effort wasted through inappropriate or inefficient use of spreadsheets, including making a significant contribution to the reduction in the UK’s structural deficit through improved spreadsheet use within government.
It might be nice to think that everyone who uses spreadsheets, or is responsible for managing the use of spreadsheets, will read the principles and consider adopting them completely and comprehensively, adding them to their existing methods for controlling the quality of spreadsheets.
At least in the short term, this is neither likely to happen, nor necessary for the principles to have a positive impact. The Twenty Principles are a bit like a talking dog: it's not what it says but the fact that it can talk at all that's significant
How the principles could help
Some of the comments on the exposure draft expressed surprise that such a 'basic' set of principles would be of much use, suggesting that anyone who uses a spreadsheet should already...
About Simon Hurst
Simon Hurst is the founder of technology training consultancy The Knowledge Base and is a past chairman of the ICAEW's IT Faculty.