Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Living Information Systems

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.


  1. jeremy thomas9:25 am


    I agree, spreadsheets are here to stay. What's interesting about them (Excel specifically), is their ability to integrate to services. A recent webcast by Kapow Technologies shows how spreadsheets can integrate to REST services to pull in information in realtime to perform calculations. The example Kapow provided used a service exposing exchange rates to calculate costs in different currencies.

    With capabilities like this, combined with a mechanism to share and collaborate on spreadsheets, I think they can be the ultimate mashup application.

  2. Thanks, Jeremy. Forrester do also make that point too - and even at the least sophisticated level, I was surprised how easy it was to write an Excel VBA macro to automatically interact with the Technorati API - to get the data you simply point Excel at the URL and it downloads the XML data.


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