Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Spreadsheets Rule

On the one hand we keep hearing that the most used Business Intelligence application in the world today is Microsoft Excel. On the other hand most Business Intelligence experts and vendors put down spreadsheets as the enemy of good Business Intelligence. Spreadsheets are silos of information that contain wrong data, unanticipated data, contradictory data and broken formulas.

At the March meeting of the SDForum Business Intelligence SIG meeting we heard a different story. Craig Thomas, CTO of Steelwedge Software spoke on "Why Plans are Always Wrong". Steelwedge software does Enterprise Planning and Performance Management. The jist of their software is that they build a data warehouse for enterprise planning and then deliver the data to the planners in the form that they are most familiar with, Excel spreadsheets.

Steelwedge keeps a tight control on the planning process. Spreadsheets come from a template repository. A spreadsheet is populated with data from the data warehouse, and then checked out and delivered to a planner. Update is disabled on many fields so that the planner can only change plans in controlled ways. After the plan has been updated, it is checked back in and the changed fields integrated into the data warehouse. Workflow keeps the planning process on track.

Finally when the plan has been executed, the plan and execution can be compared to see how good the planning process is and where it needs to be improved. In fact, many Steelwedge customers have implemented Steelwedge because they felt that their planning process was out of control.

Join the Business Intelligence SIG Yahoo group, and you will be able to download the presentation from the "Files" area.

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