MS Excel – A Programming Language?

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Our aim is to strike a balance between Excel and IT Systems. By transforming the usage of Excel from a spreadsheet document to an integrated back-end system, we are able to leverage on the strength of both technologies: Excel’s Flexibility, and IT Systems’ Structure.

Looking Back
So much as has changed since the birth of the first ever spreadsheet, VisiCalc, in 1978. Back then, it was a matrix of 5 columns and 20 rows with a few basic capabilities. Of course, the spreadsheet evolved with VisiCalc’s successors, SuperCalc, Multiplan, Lotus 123, and finally, MS Excel in 1985.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the first version of Excel was for a Mac? Microsoft released a Windows version two years later.

The release of Excel version 4 totally changed the spreadsheet game. It was the first popular version of Excel, and since then, it has found its way to the computer screens of many, many users. Fast forward to the present day, people have definitely found a variety of uses for Excel.

73 year old, Tatsuo Horiuchi, makes art with Excel.

However, among many types of users, I think it’s safe to say that Excel has truly found its home in businesses. Whether you’re a small company or a conglomerate, someone in your office is using Excel.

Love/Hate Relationship
Browsing through other blogs and forums, I noticed that everyone has a strong opinion of Excel’s place in an organization.

On one hand, there are people whom I would describe as Enthusiast.
These are the people who absolutely love their spreadsheets and have become masters of its functions and formulas. Of course, anyone who has ever used Excel would understand why—it is flexible, accessible, and immediate. Users can quickly whip-up a spreadsheet that crunches numbers without having to write a single line of code. For these reasons, it is easy to see why some users still depend on Excel, despite having a dedicated “IT System” for their tasks. Why navigate through all those screens, when you can do it faster on Excel? On top of this, evolving an IT system is a month long project that requires a team, while Excel’s flexibility and accessibility lets end-users manage it instantly.

On the other hand, there are the Skeptics.
Skeptics want to kill Excel in workplaces, and believe that it could be the “most dangerous software on the planet”. While the Skeptics are just as knowledgeable in Excel as the Enthusiasts, they believe that giving end-users too much freedom will only lead to errors. For the Skeptics, Excel lacks structure, and its accessibility can become a disadvantage as each user can just as easily create their own versions of the truth. And of course, the more complex the spreadsheet becomes, the more monumental the error becomes.

Finding the Balance
So, where do we stand in this debate? And what is the relevance of the title question?

At CalcFusion, we believe that it would be to everyone’s pleasure to have software that satisfies both Enthusiasts and Skeptics. Until then, there is no denying that Excel will always exist in the workplace.

Our aim is to strike a balance between Excel and IT Systems. By transforming the usage of Excel from a spreadsheet document to an integrated back-end system, we are able to leverage on the strength of both technologies: Excel’s Flexibility, and IT Systems’ Structure.

As a backend system, we treat Excel like any other program. Its formulas and business rules are essentially the codes which are programmed by the business managers instead of developers. Integrating Calcfusion into your IT System gives Excel the capability to mix local data with live data. Integration also means your IT department has control over what goes in and out of you IT system, and what is stored in your IT system’s database.

In CalcFusion, your Excel files are centralized, versioned, tested, and archived. By managing Excel in a controllable environment, we hope to give organizations a choice to use Excel while fulfilling the needs to have some level of structure.

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