Inheriting Someone’s Spreadsheet – Expert Panel DIscusses – Excel Topics

Ever taken over someone’s spreadsheet?

Sure you have.

And I’m not talking about those pretty, sexy, sizzling, easy to comprehend spreadsheets.

I mean one of those double-ugly spreadsheets.  The kind you are embarrassed to bring home to Momma.  The kind of spreadsheet that you hate to be seen out in public with.  You know the one I’m talking about.

What Steps do you take to dig into a new model?

Rick discussed the pain it is. when you:

  • Don’t know what the previous person did (there is limited documentation)
  • There is almost no color coding
  • There is no legend
  • Logic is all over the place
  • No documentation of what is an input vs calc or an output

Oz reminds you to:

  • Not panic
  • Deal with it
  • Ask a lot of questions before digging in
  • Remind yourself that this is where you grow… inheriting someone else’s logic

Jordan tells you to

  • Calm down — don’t state you need to start from scratch.  Nobody wants to hear that
  • Don’t blame the last person
  • Paste long formulas into text editor to parse it out
  • Indention

And how do you design better for the next person?

Rick discusses

  • working backwards from the output, or reverse engineering the spreadsheet.
  • Starting with the calculations and deconstructing how it was put together
  • using a stable structure such as Tables.
  • Color Coding
  • putting notes in the spreadsheet.


  • People are going to write code they way they write it.  So deal with it.
  • VBA – Do worksheet first
  • Keep things grouped together


  • Descriptive named ranges

What do you think?

What have you found to be the most useful in deconstructing a model?  Leave you comments below.

Rick Grantham
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