Spreadsheets have become a du jour “standard” for some forms of Business-to-Business integration, offering a data representation that is easy to produce and consume, and is widely supported across industries and geographic boundaries. Spreadsheets are also very portable; they can be emailed, viewed across platforms (Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, Linux) and are accessible by many software packages (Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice, Google Docs).
Using spreadsheets as an integration medium can be challenging, however, because the layout of data within a spreadsheet can vary. Spreadsheets aren’t always simple grids of rows and columns. Data can be represented in a tabular format, e.g., to transmit raw data from a back-end application, or in a forms-based layout, similar to what we might find in business documents like purchase orders and invoices. That flexibility makes the spreadsheet versatile and attractive as a data-publishing tool, but makes integration of some spreadsheet cases less trivial.