Since its launch on a Windows platform in 1987, Microsoft Excel has gradually become omnipresent on business desktop environments. It is widely used in businesses of all sizes for data management, analysis and reporting. In a way, it can be considered the first Business Intelligence (BI) software product mass marketed.
Excel - a lifecycle approach
Almost since its launch, Excel’s position in the market has been challenged by various products with advanced data integration and analysis functionality. Together, they formed the basis of today’s BI market, by going through several successive phases:
- 1987-1996 Formation – initial product launches
- 1996-2005 Growth – product maturity and market formation
- 2005-2010 Consolidation – by various mergers and acquisitions involving the major software producers in the world.
Excel strong points
In recent years, a trend that starts to get wide acceptance in the market is the move from desktop installed products to online service delivery. Software as a Service (SaaS) is largely facilitated by technology advancements such as cloud computing.
There are indeed products in the market with more features, more robust and integrated. However, considering the estimated number of 500 million users, Microsoft Excel can still be considered as the most popular performance management and business intelligence tool in use today.
So what makes it so popular?
- It is not expensive, at under $350.
- Most users are already familiar with its basic functionality.
- It makes sharing of data easy due to its widespread use.
Excell weak points
The main drawbacks of using Excel as a BI tool are:
- Data reliability – spreadsheets are error prone due to human error
- Lack of advanced collaboration features
- Limited advanced reporting functionality
Balanced Scorecard implementation with Excel
This is the traditional way of assessing Excel, by looking at its reporting functionality, through the BI lens. Specifically regarding the Balanced Scorecard, initial scorecard work during an implementation can best and easily be done using Microsoft Excel or additional Microsoft tools such as Power Point or Word. As the Balanced Scorecard matures the organization can consider other, more automated way to roll it out to the rest of the organization.
Some of the additional benefits of using Excel from a Performance Management and Balanced Scorecard perspective are:
- Supports creativity, as it can be used as a canvas for developing visual constructs. While it doesn’t have advanced visualization options, it offers vast screen real-estate for structuring data.
- Useful communication tool, as it provides a structured approach to presenting information. Reports can be structured by hyperlinking tabs and combining text with graphs and pictures.
- It is easy to use, basic user functionality requiring no training. Configuration is straightforward and the visual interface relatively user-friendly.
Overall, due to its versatility, Microsoft Excel is here to stay. Its availability in an online format and the upcoming release of the 2010 version of the software are interesting new developments in this success story.
- Smartkpis.com Performance Architect update (2010), Microsoft Excel – the most popular Performance Management and Business Intelligence tool, available at: http://www.smartkpis.com/blog/2010/03/12/microsoft-excel-%E2%80%93-the-most-popular-performance-management-and-business-intelligence-tool/.