How many times have we needed to format some data quickly and reached for our favorite spreadsheet application? I am just as guilty of this as you are. Or maybe we needed to send data to someone, but weren’t sure what capabilities they had to parse out a flat file. The spreadsheet has been the Swiss Army knife in our IT toolboxes for years.
As our businesses drive us to leverage integration to reduce costs, we typically look to the large implementations for ROI. However, there is some low-hanging fruit that just requires us to think a little differently about an age-old problem; dealing with customers that eschew technology. These are the customers that are still faxing orders to you. They do email, hopefully, but one thing they do know how to use is a spreadsheet.
Spreadsheets do have valuable integration use cases, both inside the business and externally. An application example that comes to mind is mining shipment data from a database and producing the data in a format suitable for business end-users. Dumping the data to a comma-separated-values (CSV) file is quite limiting in presentation control. Yes, the data is all there, but the end-user is still going to spend time “prettying up” the contents. Printing a report to PDF also gets the job done, but it’s still just a report. Wouldn’t it be useful to query the data and easily put it into a spreadsheet that encourages user interaction? This approach takes the data publishing paradigm one step further, enabling the end-user to interact with the data and empowering them to draw new insights that are beneficial to the business.