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The Future of Excel - Data Management Chicago | DataScopic

The Future of Excel

With the first glimpses of Excel 2013 (as part of Office 15) being released & reviewed it’s a good time to address two prognostications about Excel’s future.

1.  EXCEL IS DEAD, IT HAS NO FUTURE      I was on a conference call recently and the premise was that Excel is already obsolete and we all should abandon ship, get with the future, and sign up for a monthly subscription to the web-based CRM he was hawking.

To check this fellow’s credibility, I asked if there was ANYting in this whole wide world that Excel would be good for. He stammered and literally suggested that it’s good for grocery lists. The only real response to such a claim:

2.  EXCEL IS THE ONE, THE ONLY. FOREVER & EVER   An Excel consultant wrote a white paper that presents Excel as superior to any business software that you might buy because of the learning curve, and perhaps pay a monthly subscription long into the future. (See the response to #1 for response to this claim.) For him, the future of Excel extends beyond the end of the world.


Both of those extremes lose sight of Excel simply being a tool … ONE tool among many that we use in the myriad of ways that we manage data, parse data, merge-&-purge data, validate and update data. Every tool has to be considered vis-à-vis whatever we’re trying to carry out.

Excel is like a massive box of tools and parts. The limitations are your imagination, urgency, and budget. Excel becomes the wrong tool when a developer is building workarounds to work around workarounds, and the project is gone over budget. Otherwise, if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Said another way: if someone can use Excel to create a “good enough” CRM (or project management tool, timesheet, financial calculator, data scrubber, data management tool, web-scraper, etc.), there’s no reason to take on something new that costs money and/or has a clumsy learning curve taking you away from your core business.

What does this say about the future of Excel? Not much. Excel is a tool and should be viewed within that context. The trouble comes in when a consultant or professional presents themselves as an expert at a particular tool and NOT as a solutions expert who uses the tool. Think about Dreamweaver masters from years gone by. The Dreamweaver Consultants got into trouble as websites became easier to create and fewer people needed someone to operate the Dreamweaver tool for them. However, a Web Developer has a broader perspective and can adjust as new tools became available.

Debating the future of Excel; i.e., the future of a tool, isn’t interesting. Use whatever tools that will meet your own needs, and the needs of your customers and clients.

And please, keep your data clean—with whatever tool you have available to you.

Download Excel 2013 Preview at Microsoft.com
Review @ ars technica First Look: Excel 2013

The Future of Excel is here