Production Spreadsheets. Banish Thee!

May 2, 2007

BandAidAs an ex-operations manager, “production” spreadsheets used to really nag me.

You know what I mean.  A mission critical business function developed in Excel using botched together macros and datasources (if you were lucky).  Often meant to be a short term thing, but end up being around for eons.  These are usually developed by the spreadsheet gurus that, whilst far more intelligent than I will ever be, don’t know how to make these “production strength”, or appreciate why they need to.  Inevitably they move on, taking all knowledge of their spreadsheet mission critical business function with them. Either that or no-one know where the spreadsheet is.  Lots of other problems.  Duplicated data.  Users having freedom to write their own queries.  Drivers stop working.  Passwords change.  The list goes on.

So why is the production spreadsheet phenomena so widespread?  It’s usually one or more of the following:

  • Poor response times: A request is made to IT, who say that it will take at least a couple of months before they around to it.
  • Too expensive: IT respond and tell the business it’s gonna cost millions.
  • Two left hands: IT is not in partnership with the business.
  • No visibility: “IT?  Who?.”
  • Short term view: “It’s the easiest thing to do in the short-term”

With todays web technologies and frameworks there is simply no excuse for production spreadsheets.  Anything that is performed on a regular basis should be part of a system, not part of someones personal drive.

Particularly with web apps, moving production spreadsheets online reduces risk,  provides easier ways to share information and allows for automation.  Long term benefits.  It’s a no-brainer if your IT dudes are on to it.  Which is not always the case, unfortunately.  It’s our responsibility as IT professionals to sort this shit out.

So for those suffering production spreadsheet mania, I challenge you to step up to the plate and replace them.  Banish Thee!

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