August 11, 2010 Leave a comment
Interesting post over at the 21st Century Supply Chain on the continuing use of spreadsheets for the purpose of business intelligence. The big question seems to be why are companies still using them at all. 21st Century gives a few reasons which are all definitely valid, but they also leave out some of the ones I see as key.
In my experience, many companies have implemented business intelligence software in an ad hoc way, buying the core modules without paying any attention to the add-ons. This results in software solutions that are great for day-to-day operations, but not so great for aggergating data to use when making strategic decisions. Take spend analysis for example, the big ERP systems have great capabilities when it comes to entering purchase orders and contracts data and looking up individual purchases. But what they don’t have is some way of looking at the entire spend, which is what we really need to make strategic decisions. So, what’s the solution? Exporting the data into a spreadsheet and running some pivot tables of course.
Another issue is the high degree of customization within the business intelligence space. So many systems are customized to the point where each organization is essentially running a different software application, even if they are all running Oracle or SAP. As a consultant this means it is impossible for me to run a complementary software package and have client data be usable. Again, the solution is to export the data into a spreadsheet and complete the analysis there.
Even some of the stand-alone applications require the data first be exported to a spreadsheet, manipulated, and then re-imported due to compatibility issues.
Until companies recognize that just implementing business intelligence systems is not a panacea and that the systems must be properly implemented with all the necessary tools to meet the needs of the business, spreadsheets are going to be here to stay.