DM Review readers should be a lot more aware of the perils of dirty data than most IT staffers, thanks to Larry English's columns. However, as I listen to vendors hawk the latest OLAP tools, I feel a chill come over me. Remember the "rounding error" that plagued one of the early versions of Lotus 1- 2-3--and the resultant "off by a penny" problems that had accountants and bookkeepers pulling their hair out?
What I remember about the debacle isn't the temporary setback the snafu gave spreadsheet technology in general, it was the slew of accompanying articles that illustrated how easy it was for end users to get wrong results. Formulas were "hidden" behind the answers or, worse yet, embedded in some hard to figure out macro. The message was clear: use the tools, but use your head as well. When I taught novices how to use Lotus back in those days, I told them they should do "manual" calculations on some sample data to make sure the answers the spreadsheet returned were correct.
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