17. April 2020

If you understand the spreadsheet, you understand the deal

The other day I was listening to the Financial Modelling Podcast where host Matthew Bernath was talking to Kenny Whitelaw-Jones of Gridlines.

Their conversation was interesting, but one sentence in particular stuck with me:

“If you understand the financial model, then you understand the entire deal. It’s the one place where the entire deal […] is really captured.”

They then went on to talk about how this often means that the spreadsheet person on a project is the one that has the deepest understanding of a deal or a contract.

This resonated with me in part because it chimes with the belief that Excel is a domain-specific language for finance, but also with something that I have been thinking about more generally: That spreadsheets are how knowledge workers encode their domain expertise.

Because of their flexibility and ubiquity, everybody has easy access to spreadsheet software and knows how to use it to some extent. So the spreadsheet is the tool that gets fired up every time a knowledge worker has to do anything with data, numbers or formal logic/math.

And this is how organizations’ spreadsheet fabric forms. I strongly believe that as much as half of pretty much any organization’s proprietary data and logic is captured in the informal “IT infrastructure” that is this assemblage of spreadsheets that reside on people’s local computers, cloud accounts and network drives without any oversight or governance on the organization’s behalf.

These spreadsheets drive processes, guide planning and decision-making, and influence operations at all levels. Some of them are ephemeral, serving a purpose only during one project or the digital equivalent of a back-of-a-napkin calculations. Others become fixed assets and may be consulted, expanded and developed further — even for decades.

At GRID, we’re helping spreadsheet users add value to the most important assets in this fabric: the spreadsheets that are frequently updated, and those that really need to shine in front of peers, superiors, partners or customers.

We do this by empowering every-day spreadsheet users to build visual and interactive narratives on top of their existing spreadsheets, while remaining in full control of which parts of the spreadsheet are exposed, who can access then and how they are distributed.

This article has also been published on Medium.

- Hjalmar Gislason, Founder & CEO

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