Business comprehension managers once talked longingly about weaning finish users off their Excel
addictions to assistance safeguard that BI information remained unchanging and secure. Yeah, right: In many cases,
efforts to exterminate Excel from BI processes went nowhere, forcing BI teams to change to a strategy
of easy rather than expelling it.
“We have fought a fight for 20 years and we have lost,” pronounced Boris Evelson, an researcher at
Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. What BI managers need to do now, he added, is work to
control and manage
Excel BI use as best they can. For example, Evelson endorsed that Excel be integrated with
software that can trade information to spreadsheets, enabling Excel to duty some-more as a user
interface and information display covering than as a information plan apparatus itself.
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Excel to a BI system
There’s no elementary recipe, though, for gripping business users from going in their possess directions
with Excel. “It’s arrange of like herding cats,” pronounced Rick Sherman, owner of consultancy Athena IT
Solutions in Stow, Mass. “You’re never going to entirely control Excel. Anyone who thinks they will is
Sherman, who pronounced business users “will go kicking and screaming before they ever stop using
Excel,” suggested that a tip priority should be ensuring that everybody in a association is working
off of a same data, even if users are formatting it in opposite ways in Excel spreadsheets and
creating their possess charts and other graphics.
To grasp that goal, Sherman, Evelson and Bill Brydges, a handling executive during consulting
company MorganFranklin in McLean, Va., all cited a same keyword: governance.
Excel BI use OK here, not there
Evelson pronounced companies should exercise spreadsheet-usage governance policies that are flexible
but will be enforced. Under such policies, Excel use could be authorised for stating and analysis
within particular workgroups yet not for enterprisewide
BI functions. Nor should it be authorised as partial of quite supportive processes, such as
regulatory reporting, he said.
Similarly, Sherman pronounced companies could extend existent data
governance programs to embody Excel usage. He cautioned, though, that BI managers should tread
lightly and try to sell due governance policies on a basement of factors such as potential
productivity improvements they could lead to or a need to yield uniform BI information and commentary to
corporate executives. “If we try to be heavy-handed, that’s a losing battle,” he said.
Excel use for BI functions is “more of a sign than a problem in and of itself,” Brydges
said. “People spin to Excel when it is a usually apparatus they have to manipulate data.” To forestall its
use from apropos problematic, he advised, BI teams should incorporate Excel as a pivotal member of
fully integrated BI
processes so it isn’t treated as a standalone record or a overpass to BI
“Users will continue to rest on Excel and other collection to get elementary tasks done, and they
should,” Brydges said. “The indicate is to control a governance of when information from that form of
approach is integrated into craving business processes and reporting.”
Don’t only eyeball your Excel data
For example, he pronounced BI teams could build predefined thresholding and balancing calculations
into Excel to automate error-checking instead of relying on business users to eyeball rows and
columns of information to try to mark improper values or misapplied formulas. He combined that it competence also
be useful to control entrance to specific Excel spreadsheets by encryption and password
protection, if we can get capitulation for doing so. Microsoft’s SharePoint
software and several third-party applications can assistance with such protections, Brydges said.
Sherman also cited SharePoint’s intensity to assistance Microsoft-oriented organizations keep a firmer
grip on Excel BI use. SharePoint enables companies to use Microsoft’s Excel Services program to
share and reuse Excel workbooks; they also can muster BI components such as a PowerPivot
add-in for Excel during a server level, creation it easier to safeguard that information formation and
other information government tasks are finished outward of particular spreadsheets, Sherman said.
He added, though, that BI collection in ubiquitous support tighter formation with Excel than they did
in a days when spreadsheets were noticed as a rivalry of proper
business comprehension techniques. For a many part, he said, BI vendors have now adopted a
coexistence plan when it comes to traffic with Excel.
Charles Linville, owner and boss of Ploughman Analytics Inc., a consulting and analytics
services association in Champaign, Ill., pronounced a ultimate carrot for gripping BI users from looking to
Excel in brute ways is to make certain that their information needs are met in a timely fashion. Linville
added that if users need to get mixed levels of capitulation for information requests and afterwards wait for BI
or IT workers to do a compulsory growth or information plan work, branch to Excel is only
natural. “Where is a surprise,” he asked, “that they mostly confirm to see to their possess needs?”
Alan R. Earls is a Boston-area freelance author focused on business and technology. Craig
Stedman, executive editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics.com, also contributed to this story.
This was initial published in Jul 2012