Every Company Has a “Spreadsheet Fabric”
When talking to people about their spreadsheet usage, I’ve noticed that spreadsheets are so ubiquitous, people tend to underestimate how much they actually use them.
Asking “How often do you use spreadsheets?” is almost like asking “How often do you use the Internet?” (or “How often do you use oxygen?” for that matter).
This is even more true of organizations as a whole. People underestimate how much their organizations rely on spreadsheets, assuming they are an outlier and everyone else is using “the real stuff”. What is more, managers, admins and IT people may be the ones that understand their organizations’ spreadsheet usage the least. They assume that the formal IT systems are in better shape than they really are, and that people are following the “rules” more than they really do.
But — as we’ve covered before — spreadsheets are the knowledge worker’s way to get stuff done. And if your company is getting stuff done, a lot of that is probably getting done with spreadsheets.
The reality is that every organization has a “spreadsheet fabric”, a growing collection of workbooks ranging from standalone one-off working documents to a mesh of interconnected workbooks that run critical processes for years — even decades.
When talking to investors for our Seed round, I would point this out. A line that worked well was that I believed that: up to 50% of a typical organization’s proprietary business logic is in spreadsheets and not in the formal IT systems such as their ERP or CRM
That was until I met a couple of investors with deep ties to Microsoft. They flat out laughed at me (usually not a good sign in a VC meeting) and then told me I was wrong: “It’s more like 90%!”. We’re proud to have them both on board as investors :)
So, what does your organization’s spreadsheet fabric look like? Do you know of critical processes that rely on spreadsheets? Do you know how much you use spreadsheets? Do you have a spreadsheet open right now?
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This article has also been published on Medium.