Transformation: From Spreadsheets to Services

No other application embodies the then newfound business power of the personal computer, than the spreadsheet.

Spreadsheets empowered number crunchers like never before. Over the decades that followed, formulas, pivots, macros, linking, and add-ons amplified that power creating mini IT fiefdoms disconnected from a company’s central business systems.

Today, in the age of digital transformation, the spreadsheet is enemy no.1. The tide of individual compute empowerment has reached office workers, nomadic workers, and mobile workers. Mission accomplished. Next.

The new wave is data lakes, AI/ML, experiences, and services. The disconnected fat client is not completely dead, but network/cloud based applications represent the new era of empowerment: access to data regardless of location, access to community data regardless of location, and access to the insights of a community.

Invariably, whenever I encounter transformation, the battle cry arises “no more running the company on spreadsheets”. This is as much true for communication service providers as it is for technology suppliers. No doubt for all entities. The spreadsheet, once the bastion of individual productivity empowerment is now seen as the symbol of hidden, undocumented, manual processes that will never be understood, let alone benefit from shared, connected, corporate, automation. Spreadsheets, DIY…geez, that’s so 1980’s, whose got time for that today, we are all so busy. Having it automated is today’s luxury and chic workplace experience.

If it can be automated, and it is not, then you are at a productivity disadvantage; you are also not creating the space to do value added activities — you are leaving the grunt, in your work.

Transformation has a great deal to do with services, whether it is spreadsheets that become micro services, or cloud services that provide experiences. Services that provide better customer experiences. Services that dramatically improve operational excellence. Services that make better informed decisions by analyzing a larger scope of data, reinforced by trial, error, and observation.

One of the important outcomes of transformation is replacing spreadsheets with automated, instrumented, data-rich, insight-rich, connected, processes and services.

Spreadsheets still have their place, and I still use them frequently, but if it is a critical process, it should be an automated service. This is as important as transforming customer experiences.

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