07. May 2019

The Case for Modern Productivity Tools

Several startups are realizing the power of spreadsheets and the spreadsheet “metaphor” as an end-user development approach: A way to allow people that don’t see themselves as programmers to create their own “IT solutions”, developing anything from small database applications and interactive reports to automation services and business process applications.

The startups mentioned above are all approaching the market from wildly different vantage point, yet are unified by the fact that they are utilizing people’s existing skills and knowledge of spreadsheets to take them beyond what the leading spreadsheet solutions of the day can do.

These solutions straddle the intersection of at least three traditional product categories: Low-code Development PlatformsModern Business Intelligence and Analytics and Productivity Software.

In the end, they may be different enough that they would actually fall into different categories in the current enterprise software categorization. But there’s also a strong chance that we’re seeing the birth of a new product category. I feel like at least at this exploratory phase in the “industry” it might be helpful to have a way to refer to this group of products — so the natural question is: What to call it?

I see that sites like StackShare are using “Spreadsheets-as-a-Backend”. To be frank, that’s not terribly descriptive. If going down that route, “Spreadsheet platforms” or “Spreadsheets-as-a-Platform” would be a lot better. In fact that — in many ways — goes back to the roots. After all, early spreadsheets like VisiCalc were the original business software platforms for the PC, from which a lot of the enterprise software categories of today evolved. This includes CRMs, ERPs and dedicated financial planning software, all of which entered the PC era as mere “templates” in early spreadsheet software before breaking off into purpose-built solutions and some into entire industries of their own.

But to be honest, I think “Spreadsheet platforms” isn’t capturing the potential in this category. I believe that — properly executed — these solutions will evolve into the tools that will capture the majority of every organization’s proprietary business logic, allow domain experts to develop the tools they need while keeping IT happy with the level of security and sophistication of their solutions. I think these are the productivity tools of the 21st century, that will migrate “end-user developed solutions” from the era of the PC to the er era of cloud solutions.

I believe that together with some of the developments we’re seeing in presentation softwareemail clients and groupware, this new category is going to transform the way we do, not only spreadsheets, but also documents, presentations, communication and custom business applications.

Jeremy Cai highlights this evolution in a recent tweet:

In a world where Slack is replacing internal emails, Zoom is replacing WebEx and Dropbox has all but replaced the local hard drive, the time has certainly come for innovation in the Productivity Tools category. This is already happening with companies like Pitch going after the presentation software market. Spreadsheets too are ripe for modernization.

tweet-jeremy

In my mind, the new software category in town is simply “Modern Productivity Tools,” — transforming the core of the knowledge worker’s stack from the current ’90s approach into the 21st century.

This article has also been published on Medium.

Written by Hjalmar Gislason

More blog posts

04. November 2021

Introducing Conversations: a new way to explore & explain data

Now we’re really talking. We’re thrilled to announce the launch of Conversations, a game-changing new feature designed to facilitate communication...

27. October 2021

Interactive GRID features that boost user engagement

GRID was built for interactive exploration. When you consider ways to attract and engage new clients on your website, GRID...

30. September 2021

Build a price quote calculator in 5 easy steps 

Embed interactive features like calculators on a website, and voilà! They become super-engaging conversion rate boosters 🚀

25. August 2021

Embedding 101: Entrepreneur Edition

As GRID grows and evolves, so do interesting new use cases and patterns of GRID-authorship. These patterns help us learn...

23. March 2021

GRID launches empowering spreadsheet-to-web software 

It’s launch time, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Something special happens when a team this passionate unites behind a...

21. October 2017

3 things you don’t understand about spreadsheets (Part 1)

The world has a love/hate relationship with spreadsheets.

27. October 2017

3 things you don’t understand about spreadsheets (Part 2)

This is part 2 of 3 in a series of posts about the nature and history of spreadsheets.

28. August 2018

Excel vs. Google Sheets usage — nature and numbers

One of the most common questions I get is if Excel is still important, implying that “everybody” must be using...

16. October 2018

The 3 types of spreadsheets

We have been taking quite a deep dive into the world of spreadsheets lately. We have analyzed tens of thousands of...