Software

Investigating Effects of Common Spreadsheet Design Practices on Correctness and Maintainability

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Executive Summary

Spreadsheets are software programs which are typically created by end-users and often used for business-critical tasks. Many studies indicate that errors in spreadsheets are very common. Thus, a number of vendors offer auditing tools which promise to detect errors by checking spreadsheets against so-called Best Practices such as "Don't put constants in formulae". Unfortunately, it is largely unknown which Best Practices have which actual effects on which spreadsheet quality aspects in which settings. The authors have conducted a controlled experiment with 42 subjects to investigate the question whether observance of three commonly suggested Best Practices is correlated with desired positive effects regarding correctness and maintainability: "Do not put constants in formulae", "Keep formula complexity low" and "Refer to the left and above".

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