ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY, SPREADSHEETS AND PERFECTION …

ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY, SPREADSHEETS AND PERFECTION …

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Pause a moment before reading on, and think how you would answer this question: “How much documentation is enough?” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said “Perfection is not reached when there is nothing more to be added, but when there is nothing more to be removed.” In other words, as little as possible, but as much as is necessary.

Think about who the documentation is intended for – a general everyday user who only has to input data or a maintainer who may have to extend its functionality and structure? Think about the last spreadsheet you inherited: what would you have liked to have known about it at the time? Think ahead: what risk could materialise if this spreadsheet was misunderstood or misapplied through ignorance of something that is currently only in your mind?

Later on in the Spreadsheet Safe syllabus we shall be talking about simplifying formulas; that means you may need less documentation because the model is more obvious and transparent. But you will always need to say WHY the spreadsheet is needed; in what context will it be used, with what frequency by what kind of users, as part of what business process in which it serves its purpose. Only then will the reader know one important thing: what is missing from the spreadsheet, what it can not do.

Spreadsheet Safe Programme
Syllabus Reference:
1.1.1.2 State the spreadsheet purpose clearly, and indicate any assumptions.

Patrick O’Beirne
Excel/VBA consultant
@ExcelAnalytics

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