Every generation of technology lends itself to improving the past and bringing higher benefits to customers. If the world wouldn’t have experienced a Douglas DC-3, we probably would never have seen a Boeing 737 in a commercial airline fleet service. If the world would have never seen a spreadsheet, we probably would have never imagined how regular business users would store their small business data electronically (Microsoft officially sold 70 million copies of Microsoft Office) and parallel pay for structured RDBMS software (database programs make $ 21 billion dollar market today).
It’s funny and a bit scary on how one idea leads to another great idea and how the original idea percolates towards unforeseen territories. Let’s take the current example of data management in small and large companies with spreadsheets and spin a small hypothesis on the possible future of simple yet killer data management business tools.
Now a spreadsheet utility like Microsoft Excel is undoubtedly the most successful business application of the 20th century that started as a business tool used primarily by Business Managers for accounting and database purposes. Accounting type guys love it – they type and math and transpose to type and math again. Not every day you get software that offers 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns with the ability to put almost anything. From sales figures to budgets to personal tax calculations, to a database size only limited by the amount of hardware RAM available in your machine, awesome. On the other hand, Business Analyst charged to accumulate, formularize and report on business performance dealing with multiple complex formulas and files on a daily basis swear by it too. You may call these users as experts or power users, they know how to enumerate many flaws from your best hypothesis using merely a few clicks in Microsoft Excel.
But wait, isn’t this the same spreadsheet which has limited us for years. Why?
While Microsoft Excel might enjoy the de-facto business user working program status, I think its glamour and value is beginning to be threatened by:
(a) self created limitations to service the real spreadsheet user (power users)
(b) mushrooming options from a host of smaller vendors
I have attached a small hypothesis below, special thanks to Praveen, Karissa and a few others.
Clearly the inability to service the multi-user collaboration needs, growing demand for higher security, lack of structured methods to gather data – automatic data synchronization – etc – etc –have already spawned an array of products and possibly a complete Cloud-based SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) industry around it. This positions the good old spreadsheet as the starting tool for your professional career/learning program and not essentially one that is cut out for your future needs or can cut code.
Unlike a detailed hypothesis, I have only captured an overall essence of how spreadsheets started, gathered momentum and how the same idea spread to 14 other possible tools due to its own immediate limitations. I am quite curious to know what you think about the current ideal tools available in the market for LOB managers, DBAs and Programmers.
Surely all of them are waiting for Office365 from Microsoft, but what else are they using today? How does the Value square look for them? Will they continue to use the good old spreadsheets...?