Made a spreadsheet typo? Call an Excel fixer

There’s a growing industry of spreadsheet fixers, whom big companies hire to clean up their pivot table typos.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - JUNE 26: A man shows different hair cuts and hair styles prices from a spreadsheet on his computer on June 26, 2019 in Caracas, Venezuela. Everyday, more Venezuelans use American dollar notes to buy groceries, pay a hair cut or fill the tank of their cars and motorbikes. As IMF forecasts a 10 million percent inflation for 2019 in Venezuela, using dollars is a way to protect savings. Today, one US Dollar is worth 6,359 bolivares soberanos according to Venezuela Central Bank. Due to official restrictions, most people get dollars in the black market at higher rates. (Photo by Matias Delacroix/Getty Images)

Imagine Olivia Pope from Scandal — but instead of covering up political sex scandals, she swoops in to rescue you from your Excel bungles.

That’s the daily job of a cottage industry of spreadsheet fixers, whom big corporations hire to clean up their pivot table typos.

Did you mix up your new hire’s start date with their bonus amount? Copy/paste the wrong column? Spreadsheet fixers have you covered.

Excel slip-ups are everywhere

You might have heard about them last week, when the UK discovered it had failed to record ~16k COVID positive cases because of an Excel formatting error.

That isn’t even unusual. 90+% of Excel spreadsheets have at least one minor error, and some are costly:

  • Last year, marijuana giant Canopy Growth overestimated its quarterly earnings by ~$47m
  • Boeing accidentally published employee personal info by failing to notice it in a hidden spreadsheet column
  • Investment bank Lazard Ltd undervalued its client, SolarCity, by $400m while advising it on a Tesla buyout.

Okay, so who are these fixers?

They work for organizations with boring names like the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

Big companies hire them all the time to vet their books — and they’re sometimes the only people standing between you and a multimillion-dollar typo.

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