Monetizing expertise through spreadsheet models
In the couple of years since we launched GRID I’ve been lucky enough to get to know many of our most enthusiastic users. I think it would be fair to say that we have accumulated somewhat of a fan base.
Our biggest fans are usually domain experts in their field, that have built spreadsheet models to represent their unique expertise. Behind their models are often years of accumulated know-how and intellectual property (IP) captured in the spreadsheet model as reference data, formulas, assumptions, and input variables.
Their fields of expertise are more diverse than you might think at first: engineering, financing, real estate, energy, environment, construction, accounting, and fitness — just to name a few.
Primarily, these experts are using their spreadsheet models in one of the following ways to do business:
Lead generation: They provide their model to prospect customers and capture their contact information in the process. What better way to establish a relationship with a new customer than being the one to help people calculate their return on investment, how to finance their new home or how to fit their home with environmentally friendly air conditioning?
A part of service delivery: The model is used as a part of a project for a customer with whom they already have a relationship. This may be a specialized consultancy project where the model allows the expert to deliver unique value, or at the start of a project to provide a detailed overview of the cost and timeline based on the specifics of the project.
Direct sales: In some cases, the expert monetizes the spreadsheet model directly by only providing access to it for a fee.
In every case, the delivery of the spreadsheet model is the main headache. In a lot of cases, emailing the spreadsheet to the user as an Excel file is the primary method. This has several obvious shortcomings:
The expert loses control of the distribution. Nothing stops the recipient in forwarding it onwards to others, and they can use it forever for a one-time fee.
A new version of the model must be distributed manually, and it’s hard to keep track of who has which version on hand.
If there is proprietary information in any of the data or calculations involved, these are now fully available to the recipient. (Locking cells and hiding tabs are methods that are easy to get around)
The expert has no insight into the usage of the model, neither how it is being used nor how frequently.
Providing access to an online version of a spreadsheet through either Google Sheets or Excel Online has most of the same shortcomings, and a few additional ones, such as how to prevent one user from seeing and/or overwriting other users’ data or managing access to a sprawling number of copies of the same workbook.
With GRID, they can connect or upload their existing Excel or Google Sheets workbooks and then use a simple, visual editor to build a nice web interface on top of their models complete with charts, inputs, sliders, and text, all enabled by our unique spreadsheet engine.
This simple example gives you a taste, but many of these experts have models with dozens or hundreds of input variables, thousands of lines of calculations and tens of thousands of rows of input data:
Distributing the model this way makes it easy to control access to the model. Everybody has access to the same version, leads can be captured directly into a database or 3rd party system and the user interface can be seamlessly embedded into any web page, matching the page’s look and feel.
Several users have described what they have achieved with some version of:
Using GRID I have turned my spreadsheet into Software-as-a-Service (or Spreadsheet-as-a-service)
If you identify with the above, you should go ahead and test your model in GRID. We’d also love to hear from you directly (drop me a line on [email protected] ) to learn about the use-case, and make sure you are successful in meeting your goals. A lot of our recent developments are direct responses to customer requirements we hear about on such calls.
This blog was originally published on Medium.
CEO of GRID