What’s true

That spreadsheets that currently exists in organisations are messy, risk-prone and unmanageable is a fact. We who work in organisations know that and are (experientially) reminded of it every day.

So, there’s no point arguing about whether that is true or not.

What we can do is

  • What is the cause of them being messy? (is it an inherent problem in spreadsheets that cannot be solved? Or is it in the way we architect our spreadsheets?)
  • Do the solutions that the IT industry offer (as a remedy) actually work?

This is a great discussion topic.

My mantra

My particular mantra is that spreadsheets, when created, are not created with future-proofing in mind. And the users, when confronted with changes needed in the future, make spreadsheets messy by manual work-arounds or by bringing more complexity to adjust/cope.

A good way to experience this for yourself is the Celebrity Chef Spreadsheet Challenge.

Some random points

  • ‘Architect’ is an unknown term for spreadsheet users. They don’t think there’s any choice in how you setup a spreadsheet.
  • Even if you say ‘create this spreadsheet to be future-proof’ the users will not know how to address that requirement.
  • Excel is NOT limited in its capability as a platform for creating great future-proof and non-messy solutions. But our mindset imposes that limitation.
  • The solutions in principle already exist. We use these ideas in our every day lives. We simply have not related these to the topic of spreadsheets.
  • The IT industry has some now-standard approaches. Their criticisms of spreadsheets comes from, mainly, these. Not realising that those principles are also possible with Excel. But because the user-base (and gurus and commentators) are unaware of it there is no mention of it when a debate starts. eg. WSJ.

THIS BLOG HAS A LONG WAY FURTHER TO GO. But, in the meantime, any comments are welcome.

Hiran de Silva

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