A lot has been written about using spreadsheets and the dangers lurking inside some of those sheets. In a previous company of mine we had a spreadsheet that was part of our quoting mechanism, it was so complex we had to get assistance from some of our development staff when things didn’t work quite right. Formulas aside, I want to talk about a much simpler issue and how it makes spreadsheets a bad choice for enterprise applications.
Multiple Users accessing a spreadsheet
This just basically does not work in the traditional world of office products. In our industry (equipment tracking) we most often replace an Excel spreadsheet. Even if this spreadsheet is placed on a network accessible location by its very design the spreadsheet is meant to be used by one user at a time. This creates a scenario that either means the data has not been updated correctly or some data has been accidentally or purposefully over-written.
An interesting approach has been taken by google docs on how to allow collaboration in a spreadsheet and it shows promise to over-come the multi-user limitations of spreadsheets. When you are considering solving a problem with an Excel spreadsheet, don’t forget to consider the impact of multi-user on the problem you are trying to solve. You may find it rules out a spreadsheet solution.