Launch of the Spreadsheet Competency Framework

Hello all and welcome back to the Excel Tip of the Week.  This week, I am providing a guide to the IT Faculty's latest spreadsheet guidance publication, the Spreadsheet Competency Framework.

The framework was launched last night at an event held at Chartered Accountants' Hall, with speakers from across industry and the profession (including yours truly).  If you receive the Chartech magazine, a copy will come out with that mailing.  You can also get a free PDF copy here.

The framework was designed to address a common problem - how can you know how good you, or someone else, is with spreadsheets?  When you're writing your CV or interviewing candidates for a spreadsheet-reliant position, how can you communicate and know that both parties are on the same page?  What does "proficient with Microsoft Excel" really mean anyhow?

To address the question, the Excel Community Advisory Committee formed a group to create a definitive guide to classifying spreadsheet ability.  This is designed to be open and broadly applicable, so that organisations of all kinds can use it.  And it's not focused on differentiating between the top 0.1% of model-building experts, but instead focused on the vast majority of users that are moderate, occasional users.

We created a system which has four levels:

Basic Users are mostly focused on data entry tasks.  They have a grounding in the essential skills needed to avoid major wasted effort or bad practice, but few technical skills beyond that.  Any person that uses spreadsheets in their role should be at this level at a bare minimum.

General Users are the majority of the spreadsheet-using population, and modify and update spreadsheets on a regular basis.  They may have some formula and other more technical knowledge, but are rarely called upon to undertake highly complex tasks or to make spreadsheets entirely from scratch.

Creators have spreadsheeting as a core element of their roles, and make use of significant amounts of the program’s functions and features.  They often create spreadsheets from scratch and may create templates and workbooks for users at the first two levels.

Developers are the true masters of spreadsheets, with a grasp on the majority of the features of the package and ability to handle many complex tasks.  They may be specialists such as modellers, VBA programmers, or statisticians – people with exceptional knowledge in certain areas.

The levels are based on a suite of core skills - which everyone at a certain level must have - and a selection of optional, beneficial extra skills which are commensurate with the knowledge of a user at that level.  The full matrix can be found in the PDF, downloadable on the webpage icaew.com/spreadsheetcompetency.

The Excel Community's training partner, Filtered, has created a free Basic User-level training course, which you can try out here.

There are a few changes that we will be making to our content to help support this new system.  For example, the current bronze / silver / gold 'difficulty' rating on all historic Tips of the Week is going to be edited retroactively to use the new level system.  This process will take a little while, but following that we will also be attempting to label all the rest of our content using these descriptors where appropriate.

Download the report and take a read - I want to thank the Excel Community Advisory Committee once more for their hard work on producing what I think is a very exciting document.

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