Spreadsheet Errors and Decision Making: Evidence from Field Interviews

Spreadsheet Errors and Decision Making: Evidence from Field Interviews

Jonathan P. Caulkins (Carnegie Mellon University Heinz School of Public Policy and Management & Qatar Campus, USA), Erica Layne Morrison (IBM Global Services, USA) and Timothy Weidemann (Fairweather Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-945-8.ch061
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Spreadsheets are both ubiquitous and error-prone, but there is less evidence concerning whether spreadsheet errors frequently lead to bad decisions. We interviewed forty-five executives and senior managers / analysts in the private, public, and non-profit sectors about their experiences with spreadsheet errors and quality control. Almost all report spreadsheet errors are common. Most can report instances in which errors directly led to losses or bad decisions, but opinions differ as to whether the consequences of spreadsheet errors are severe. Quality control procedures are in most cases informal. A significant minority of respondents believe such ad hoc processes are sufficient because the “human in the loop” can detect any gross errors. Others thought more formal spreadsheet quality control could be beneficial.

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