GOSLING Quarterly Keynote Discussion Series: Friday 18 November, 2005

Quarterly Keynote Discussion Series: Dealing with Spreadsheet Addiction

Guest Speaker: J. C. Nash, Professor, School of Management, University of Ottawa

No fee for admission.
3:00-4:00 p.m. Friday 18 November, 2005
Budge Crawley Theatre, Constitution Square Building, Main Floor
350 Albert Street, Ottawa

Many organizations and managers suffer a quiet addiction to spreadsheets. First turned on through easy availability, they typically get drawn into overuse through the attraction of cells that can be whatever they want them to be, designer macros, and charts in psychedelic colours. Yet all of these attractions hide the power of these uncontrolled programming environments to accidentally lose VERY large amounts of money, and to make it difficult or impossible to detect misreporting. Empirical studies demonstrate that the proportion of spreadsheets without serious errors is 0% (Yes ZERO %).

It seems unlikely we can wrest the quick fix of spreadsheets from the grip of determined users. What, then, can we do to minimize the harm that spreadsheet addicts do to themselves and to their employers?

In particular, we will consider how to ensure:
Enforceable audit trails;
Better function management;
More rigorous testing methods;
Platform independence.

The speaker will present ideas arising from his involvement with two ongoing projects:

1) to provide tests of spreadsheet functions; and,

2) to offer audit trail and collaboration capability for spreadsheets and other office-suite software. He will also touch on a few of the many ideas and projects that have been presented at the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group conferences. Despite its name, EuSpRIG has a world-wide participation.

Dr. John C. Nash holds a B.Sc. from the University of Calgary (in Chemistry) and a doctorate in Mathematics from Oxford. He led a statistical analysis unit at Agriculture Canada until 1980, and is now Full Professor at the University of Ottawa, where he teaches statistics, forecasting techniques, government online and managing technological risk. His many articles and papers cover computation, statistics, forecasting, information science, risk management and quality and productivity improvement. His books include Compact numerical methods for computers (1979, 1990, 1996 (Japanese) and 1998), Effective scientific problem solving with small computers (1984), Nonlinear parameter estimation: an integrated system in BASIC, (with Mary Walker-Smith, 1987), Scientific problem solving with PCs (with Mary Nash, 1998) and Practical forecasting for managers (with Mary Nash, 2001). During his career, he has also been a columnist for Interface Age, Scientific Computing Editor for Byte, and an editor or associate editor of several statistical journals.