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ICAEW addresses spreadsheet competence challenge

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14th Apr 2016
Partner The Knowledge Base
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Following the success of their 20 Principles for Good Spreadsheet Practice initiative, the ICAEW has embarked on what is perhaps an even more ambitious project: the Spreadsheet Capability Framework.

David Lyford-Smith, Technical Manager in the ICAEW's IT Faculty, outlined the reasons behind the project:

"The Excel Community Advisory Committee came to make this document when discussing a common problem in finance recruitment - trying to gauge an applicant's Excel ability from something like 'proficient in Microsoft Excel' on their CV. Knowing what skills were appropriate for different finance roles, and knowing what questions to ask, was a key problem. The framework we are working on is designed to address those problems.

The framework also allows individual users to get a picture of their own spreadsheet skills, and a roadmap for what to study next in their development."

The framework includes a matrix of skills and roles. Four roles are included:

  • Basic users principally carry out data entry tasks in existing, well-constructed spreadsheets
  • General users are mainly users of existing spreadsheets but may also edit spreadsheets and create simple spreadsheets
  • Creators use spreadsheets as a "primary element of their role" and create and manage spreadsheets of a greater degree of complexity
  • Developers are "able to develop high-complexity spreadsheets in a multi-user environment".

The ICAEW has recently released an exposure draft of the framework and is keen to receive comments and suggestions. The exposure draft can be downloaded in Word or PDF format. Please add comments to this post or, if you wish to comment privately, by email to [email protected]. The exposure period is scheduled to close on Friday 22nd April, although any comments made after this period will be taken into account where possible. The final document will be launched at an event at Chartered Accountants' Hall, Moorgate, on the evening of the 6th July.

The ICAEW has particularly asked for feedback in the following areas:

  • The final name of the document (capability / competency / proficiency framework?)
  • The best and clearest names for the four levels in the matrix
  • The clarity of the explanation of the framework and the explanatory notes
  • The appropriateness of the allocation of skills to different levels in the matrix
  • The overall goals of the framework and the degree to which the current draft achieves those goals
  • Any other editorial or structural suggestions

More generally: does the matrix include the right set of roles? Do you see this initiative as helpful or as an unwanted intrusion by the ICAEW in matters that should not concern them? Will the framework contribute to the more efficient and effective use of spreadsheets and lead to a reduction in the risks associated with spreadsheet use? If you are involved in recruiting finance people, would such a framework be helpful to you?

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