Patrick O’Beirne; SpreadSheets Poacher-Turned-Gamekeeper!

Patrick O’Beirne; SpreadSheets Poacher-Turned-Gamekeeper!

We certainly believe Patrick O’Beirne has an interesting and unpopular interest, hence his presence on our speakers-list! Here’s a slight introduction to help you e-meet him in view of hearing his talk at #Q4Q2019!

The stage is all yours Patrick, tell us about you;

“In terms of spreadsheets, I’m the poacher-turned-gamekeeper. From a previous job in financial modelling and OR, I went out on my own in decision support analytics, and on to training and quality assessment. I’ve made all the mistakes and have seen so many more bizarre ones I would never have thought of making. So I’ve a pretty good nose for what could be a problem and how most effectively to give people a hand out of it. That’s why I was one of the first members of EuSpRIG – the European Spreadsheet Risk Interest Group, and also of SoftTest Ireland, and professionally as a Fellow of the Irish Computer Society.  My personal interests are as a musical amateur – a member of two choirs.

Good clients keep coming back, inspiring me to find better ways to analyze their data in more insightful ways. I would like to see people pay more attention to training their power users in the effective use of Excel, it’s a pity to see such brainpower wasted on inefficient work methods when a bit of automation can release more of their limited time for professional work.

With no pressure for career goals, I’m looking forward to learning more about advances in analytics that enable clearer decisions.


IT Under the Radar: Are your company’s spreadsheets tested as they should?

Software testers conventionally work on line-of-business software produced by professional developers. Yet there is a largely untapped opportunity to apply the special skills of software testing to add value to the business by finding the low-hanging fruit of defects in spreadsheet-based information systems. Excel spreadsheet formulas are programming logic, and often they contain Visual Basic for Applications code which automates their operation further. They are created by people who are not software professionals, and so typically do not follow software engineering practices (e.g. review, testing, audit trail, change control, security). Yet the users trust them enough to apply them to business-critical decisions and reporting. This session provides both anecdotal horror stories and formal metrics to illustrate the real extent of spreadsheet errors, such as the one that cost Tibco shareholders $100M, or the Value-at-Risk model that masked a JP Morgan $2 Bn loss. The session shares how professional spreadsheet auditors and testers find defects. It covers how to assess risk and complexity in the context of spreadsheet criticality, and a process of high level and detailed reviews. It gives tips on how to recognize the “bad smells”, the symptoms of the most common defects, before the user has become aware of the defect materializing in a failure.

Shadow IT is mainly the vast mass of Excel spreadsheets, often used for business-critical applications.  It recommends good development practices so that users can become self-critical, aware of their cognitive biases and technical capacity, work well to reduce error incidence, and also quickly detect and correct the inevitable errors that arise from human mistakes.

The tester will also learn Excel shortcuts and techniques to improve their own spreadsheet proficiency and productivity.  It concludes with a review of automated tools to visualize structure and highlight inconsistencies, working papers, and published guidance to facilitate the test process.

This session shows a software tester’s skills can be used to add value to the business and reduce risk in a commonly overlooked area. When they hear at the water cooler the inevitable horror story of an Excel mistake, or someone complaining that somebody else’s spreadsheet is hard to understand, then instead of just shaking their head, they can offer a targeted intervention that will make that person look good!

To gain the most benefit from the course you need to have an intermediate or advanced knowledge of Excel, any version.

You will leave the seminar with the confidence to use the tools and methods shown to risk-assess and test spreadsheets in your organization.

I’m interested in Q4Q firstly because of the memory of the very practical speakers I heard at previous Q4Q conferences. The call for papers offered an opportunity to share my experiences on my own turf – this topic is one I usually speak on at conferences elsewhere in Europe such as ISACA EuroCACS. And I want to hear what others have to say on the AI topics!

There are too many Excel MVPs that influence my outlook, mainly – Modeloff and modellers, Eusprig, Vincent Granville, Data Science Ireland, SoftTest Ireland, UKStar, Brian Honan, CNIL, Gerry McGovern, Paul Gerrard….

To connect with me, talk to me 🙂 or simply follow @ExcelAnalytics

I look forward to hearing more of the kind I heard last time!