The Spreadsheet Review Process

The Spreadsheet Review Process

Before we learn about Spreadsheet Professional, some general tips on auditing or reviewing spreadsheets.

Don’t Work on the original- MAKE COPIES

First and foremost you should perform your reviews and comparisons on copies of the original spreadsheet. This way you will not accidentally cause an error while you are trying to eliminate them. Zip or compress the originals and then work on the copies. Change the name of the copies slightly so that you know which files you can work on.

The Basics

The basics of a spreadsheet review are:

  • Print a map and investigate the obvious exceptions. Tick them off as reviewed on the map.
  • Investigate the test report findings while continuing to document the cells reviewed.
  • Consider any outstanding formulae cells on the maps after you have completed the test reports.
  • Once you have completed this you should have an extremely good idea of the accuracy of the spreadsheet.

Documenting review findings:

Now it’s all very well going out and finding the errors, but how do you document them, especially if you are doing the review on someone else’s spreadsheet. The last thing you want to do is have to re-review cells because you can’t remember if you have looked at them at all. This is where ticking off the maps helps.

When you find cells that need to be checked, put them onto a seperate sheet.

We have found that a simple spreadsheet like this helps.

Review Findings2

  • On each row you can identify the spreadsheet (workbook name), the sheet name and the cells being referred to.
  • Describe the issue or concern.
  • Have a space for follow up comments and explanations. Even if this is just for you, this column is useful.
  • It is also very useful to attempt to rank the potential error found. You can come up with your own scale, but for us a:
    • High risk is an error we are fairly sure about and it is currently affecting the numbers in the model i.e. the numbers are wrong.
    • A medium risk is an error that is not currently affecting the numbers of the model, but will cause a problem if aspects or inputs of the spreadsheet are changed. These are also serious errors as spreadsheets are often used to quickly see the results of changes made. These medium errors mean that the model is not as flexible as you think and you should be cautious when making any changes to the model, be it inputs or fomrula.
    • A low risk is normally just a presentation type issue
    • In some instances it is not clear whether a cell contains an error or not. Here we raise queries so that the issue is not lost and at some point it needs to be explained and cleared from the report.

In the video clip below, some details on the Spreadsheet Review Process and why it is necessary and introducing Spreadsheet Professional.

Back to: Auditing an Excel spreadsheet > Spreadsheet Errors and what you can do about them