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https://dataingovernment.blog.gov.uk/2021/08/18/spreadsheets-in-government/

Our new guidance on improving spreadsheets in government

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Data literacy, Data Standards, Excel, Google Sheets, Spreadsheets

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The Data Standards Authority recently published guidance on creating and sharing spreadsheets with the aim of improving how people in government use spreadsheets to share and publish data.

All kinds of people in government use spreadsheets to record and share information. This includes data experts like analysts and statisticians, but also people in roles as diverse as finance, project management, research and design. 

However, people do not always use best practices for data when creating spreadsheets, which leads to common problems that make them difficult or inefficient to use. Poor spreadsheet practice can also lead to errors in things like data accuracy or data privacy, which can have serious consequences on organisations and citizens. 

Who we worked with

Having identified an opportunity for clear guidance on good spreadsheet practice, we spoke with colleagues across government to understand user needs and how best to address them. 

We ran a survey and held workshops for colleagues in a range of departments and functions to learn about how they use spreadsheets and the challenges they face with them. We also consulted with experts in topics ranging from data architecture to content accessibility to help us draft guidance that was comprehensive but user-friendly. 

What the guidance covers

The guidance on creating and sharing spreadsheets outlines best practices and practical considerations, including:

  • choosing the right software and format
  • using clear, consistent naming conventions
  • checking for personal and hidden information
  • using application code and formulas appropriately
  • making spreadsheets accessible and machine readable

No matter what role you’re in or how much you work with data, you can help make government data sharing better by reading this guidance, sharing it with your colleagues and encouraging your team or organisation to follow it. 

How we’ll keep improving this guidance

As with any other guidance we publish, the work doesn’t stop when we hit the ‘Publish’ button. To make this guidance as useful as possible, we will continue to:

  • promote the spreadsheet guidance across government
  • learn how useful the guidance is
  • research what needs spreadsheet users have
  • update the guidance alongside other file types work such as our guidance on using CSV file format

We need your help to keep improving the guidance. To tell us what else you want to know about spreadsheets or request to receive updates about this guidance, email us at data-standards-authority@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk.

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