I've talked about spreadsheets in the past - they interest me as one of the earliest forms of user-generation applications so this article from Forrester, titled Ouch! Get Ready — Spreadsheets Are Here To Stay For Business Intelligence, caught my eye for a number of reasons:
"For years, IT practitioners and vendors have tried to develop and implement applications that would eliminate spreadsheets from mission-critical processes... But that battle has been fought and lost. Rather than fighting the use of spreadsheets, application developers, information and knowledge managers,
and business managers must embrace them — but in an environment that provides much needed functionality while treating every spreadsheet as an important enterprise resource."
Despite the availability of a modern enterprise-grade Business Intelligence (BI) stack, the spreadsheet wins out because of its ease of use, flexibility and availability. There are some strong parallels here with the drivers behind enterprise social computing - in fact, the solution to the spreadsheet "problem" put forward by Forrester very much reflects an Enterprise Web 2.0 philosophy of social and technical controls, and pragmatic risk management that recognises that some spreadsheets are more important than others.
But this future state isn't one in which spreadsheets are absorbed into a better BI solution, instead Forrester starts to describe a vision of a "holistic environment" complemented by other technologies like enterprise content management. And I don't think its a big step to see how this vision might become one for an enterprise-wide living information system where structured, formal systems not only coexist with, but provide a supporting infrastructure for working with dynamic, informal social tools.
BTW You can currently register to download the full paper for free.