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This was related to the resolved issue OPAD-3446 "Excel reports invalid expression when assigning certain text values to a text attribute" (page 15 of the release notes).
When assigning a value to a text attribute in Excel, "the benefit frequency" could be either literal text or the attribute value. It is usually obvious when writing the rule if it is literal text, but at some point in the future an attribute may be defined that matches this literal text, which mean it may suddenly becomes an error. The solution to this is to always treat a value being assigned to a text attribute as literal text unless it is enclosed in parenthesis. So "the benefit frequency" needs to be changed to "(the benefit frequency)" if it is meant to evaluate to the value of the benefit frequency.
This is mentioned in the documentation under the heading "Functions in Excel" in the topic "Upgrade a project" - this might be a little misleading since it applies to any expression where the text isn't treated as literal text.