"…They've been in existence for decades, they can spread like wildfire, and no one has quite figured out how to stop their proliferation — even if they really, really want to."
I came across this entertaining rant in the Sourcing innovation blog. The idea is that despite many attempts on behalf of IT to get key corporate data out of spreadsheets and into dedicated systems, spreadsheets keep coming back.
The doctor's post was prompted by an article in CIO.com that indicates that BI vendors have resigned themselves to the fact that spreadsheets are here to stay and have devised means to incorporate spreadsheet data into their systems despite the fact that studies have shown that 80-90% of spreadsheets contain serious errors. You know it's true…How many times haven't we been in the situation where user A's spreadsheet showed different results than user B's spreadsheet for the same thing? OK, so there are a few errors…not a big deal, right? Wrong! To see the impact spreadsheet errors can have, check out this CIO.com article from a few years ago that outline 8 of the worst spreadsheet blunders to date. Yikes!
So why do people rely so much on spreadsheets? There are many reasons I'm sure, but the top culprits are as follows;
The business system (BI, CRM, ERP, etc) can't present the information the way they need to see it
The business system doesn't support what-if modelling
The business system is too darn hard to use
The business system logic is fixed and can't be changed (within a human lifetime)
Until we get enterprise tools that can change these factors, spreadsheets will continue to proliferate regardless of how much bug spray we throw around.
Why do you continue to use spreadsheets? Do you have any great spreadsheet blunders to share? (We won't tell… honest!)