Why some companies are ditching their spreadsheets

Enterprises find ways to avoid or enhance siloed, static spreadsheets

By Sandra Gittlen, Computerworld |  Software, CRM, Microsoft Excel

Cohen's frustration with spreadsheets is not unique. As decision-making becomes more collaborative and workforces grow more distributed and global, the days of compiling a spreadsheet, mailing or e-mailing it to colleagues, then manually inputting updates and re-sending it seem antiquated.

Moreover, in recent years there has been concern about user error creating mistakes in spreadsheets that could cause trouble for companies -- particularly those in heavily regulated industries.

Microsoft, for one, says it has new features in Excel that address some of those concerns. (See "Microsoft responds," later in this story.) For example, there are ways to enable Excel to accept real-time data feeds, but that solution doesn't help when there are multiple updates from individual employees who aren't necessarily adhering to a regular update schedule.

Instead, some companies are tossing aside traditional spreadsheets in favor of more targeted software and services. Or, at the very least, they are seeking out add-ons to Excel to support real-time sharing, viewing and reporting among both internal and external users and a variety of devices.

Rob Kugel, an analyst at Ventana Research in Pleasanton, Calif., says his firm's research shows that when it comes to doing analytical tasks, nine out of 10 people use spreadsheets all or most of the time. "They use other tools as well, but -- especially for general business users -- spreadsheets are the default tool and have been since the 1980s," he says. He adds that Microsoft's Excel overtook Lotus as the dominant spreadsheet in the 1990s and today has an overwhelming share of the market, with 750 million enterprise and home users.

Spreadsheets 'spread too thin'

Kugel says the problem for Excel and other traditional spreadsheets lies in the fact that they have been spread too thin -- they're being used for everything from analysis to reporting to data storage.

John Burke, an analyst at Nemertes Research, agrees. "Excel and other traditional spreadsheet programs are considered the Swiss Army knife of ready data analysis, but there are limits as to how far they can go," he says. "Therefore, we're seeing a lot of shaving off of what they are made to do into specialized packages such as project management suites or higher-end data analysis."


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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