Any business spreadsheet user will confirm that the idea of successfully replacing spreadsheets with something else is a myth.

This is evidenced in the huge reaction to the infamous article in the Wall Street Journal (November 2017). This is the article where it was claimed that bosses are telling their staff to stop using Excel.

Attempts to replace spreadsheets with ERP systems, or the new breed of cloud spreadsheet alternatives, has only one result. They all depend on spreadsheets to intervene in the workflow before, and after, and in between.

So, does that mean we have to continue to endure the recurring pains when our work is spreadsheet-based? The pains we know so well, and love?

No.

Re-engineer, not replace

No because, to avoid those pain, we can easily re-engineer our existing spreadsheets with Excel itself.

After all, the reasons why spreadsheets can become very labour-intensive (and fragile and risky) are well known. (European Spreadsheet Risk Interest Group – EuSpRIG)

My favorite philosophical explanation is this. We have always thought of the humble spreadsheet as if it is just an electronic version of the analysis paper we used up to the 1980s. Consequently we set up spreadsheet-based workflow in much the same way; as we would have used paper. The fact is, a whole world of possibilities exist if we dare to think beyond the boundaries of the ‘A4 analysis paper paradigm’.

This is easier to demonstrate (experientially) then it is to describe.

Therefore, I have created a simple thought experiment . Anyone who uses spreadsheets can assess themselves on ‘how they think’.

The Celebrity Chef Spreadsheet Challenge

This is a five minute video that sets a common task for you to think about – how would you think? What is the strategy? Is it workable? In the latter half of this exercise you will get to self evaluate.

Will you win?

Will you dare take this challenge? It is simple, but only 1% get it right (definition: right = not create a mess)

Hiran de Silva

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