Is Excel Services a trap?

Excel is the tool of the business user, often to implement systems that the IS department has refused to do (either by saying no, or quoting ridiculous costs/timescales).

We have discussed here many times this cultural conflict, and how this is a factor in Excel popularity/usefulness.

So Excel services could almost be considered a bit of a trojan horse. IS (begrudgingly, of course) sets it up on a server for the business to use. Business starts to move many of their horrible spreadsheets to the new server. Suddenly IS have control of many new critical business processes. What will they do then? Lock them down? Lock people out ‘for their own good’? ‘rationalise’ them? Insist on migrating them to .net? webify them for no reason except to bolster IS developers CVs? break them? make them unavailable at key times? De-prioritise them? Set up a proper test/production split? Look after them as well as, or better than, their originator?

Who knows, but the point is many business spreadsheets represent failure of IS to deliver an effective alternative. Is Excel services that alternative? Or should we be holding out for a full N-tier/big iron solution?

Do you see Excel services as a short term bridging type technology to help IS and the business work more closely together? With most of those spreadsheets eventually migrated to SQL/.net type architecture?

Or is it a ‘for the foreseeable future’ technology?

I reckon it makes a good halfway house and if it can encourage collaboration between IS and the business that can only be good. I would expect many critical systems to move to a more mainstream techs within a year or 2 of appearing in Excel services. That will generally be a good thing I think, what about you?

cheers

Simon

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14 Responses to “Is Excel Services a trap?”

  1. gobansaor Says:

    I think Excel services will be just one of many alternatives for hosting “micro-apps”, things are moving so fast that it would be hard to pick any “winner” with certainty (perhaps the notion of a winner-take-all platform is a thing of the past).

    For example, Zoho Sheet, as of yesterday, supports Pivot Tables and a subset of VBA (see http://blogs.zoho.com/sheet/macros-pivot-tables-more-in-zoho-sheet/).

  2. jonpeltier Says:

    “So Excel services could almost be considered a bit of a trojan horse. IS (begrudgingly, of course) sets it up on a server for the business to use. Business starts to move many of their horrible spreadsheets to the new server. Suddenly IS have control of many new critical business processes. What will they do then? Lock them down? Lock people out ‘for their own good’? ‘rationalise’ them? Insist on migrating them to .net? webify them for no reason except to bolster IS developers CVs? break them? make them unavailable at key times? De-prioritise them? Set up a proper test/production split? Look after them as well as, or better than, their originator?”

    A bit Ludlum-esque, eh? If you ever give up the excel gig, you could begin writing spy novels, detective stories, etc

  3. Simon Says:

    Jon – ahh, thats what it is – I’ve just recently watched the Bourne trilogy.

  4. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    MOSS is one of the most growing platforms in my part of the world and Excel Service is here to stay. All business tools that are server-sided are per se under the control of IT-departments.

    I cannot see anything wrong with it as it allows corporates to get a better structure to deliver decision supporting info on all management levels.

    Again, MOSS/Excel Service (as well as .NET) is not a threat to traditional Excel development. Excel Service may also be a way to discover Excel as a development platform!

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  5. jonpeltier Says:

    Simon – “I’ve just recently watched the Bourne trilogy.”

    I recently saw the first two. I never quite followed the whole plot, but there was so much cool action, like the car chase through Paris, that it didn’t matter.

  6. jonpeltier Says:

    Dennis – “Excel Service may also be a way to discover Excel as a development platform!”

    I don’t know much about MOSS and so forth, since I have no server to put it on, and really no client pull as yet. But I suspect you might be right about this.

  7. Harlan Grove Says:

    You want cool car chases, see Ronin.

  8. Ross Says:

    >>Dennis – “Excel Service may also be a way to discover Excel as a development platform!”

    Good point dennis.

    I have no idea about the MOSS thinyg by the way.

    If you want cool car chases, come and stop at mine for a bit!

  9. Stephen Bullen Says:

    I don’t understand what your point is here. Surely the question of ownership revolves around the content, not the infrastructure; IS depts making Excel Services available to the users / business developers to fill with content is no different to them providing a network file share to store them on.

  10. Mike Alexander Says:

    “IS depts making Excel Services available to the users / business developers to fill with content is no different to them providing a network file share to store them on.”

    I agree. I don’t think it will be a question of collaboration. I believe the extent of involvement most IT/IS departments will have will be to partition off an instance of MOSS for you. IT/IS have effectively become the technicians that keep the lights on and the pipes running without incident.

    They no more want to collaborate on Excel Services than they do with SQL Server databases, Sharepoint sites, or Network drives.

  11. Harlan Grove Says:

    I’ve had some experience with Lotus Notes and 123 workbooks embedded in Notes forms. I was able to build and maintain applications because IT had given me manager access to some Notes databases. Then I left that company and went to work for a different company. IT didn’t give my successor manager or even designer access to those Notes databases. IT took over. I had friends who still worked there, and the systems I had developed became nightmares.

    Why should I or anyone else with experience working with such systems believe SharePoint and Excel Services will be any different?

    If IT/IS departments were content with keeping the lights on and the pipes flowing, all would be well. Unfortunately, all too often they misperceive themselves as strategic units, and thereby fubar any other department with which they come in contact.

  12. Simon Says:

    I liked the Ronin car chase too, the third Bourne explains more of the story (a bit)

  13. Doug Glancy Says:

    Our long-time, very capable consultant who maintains our network will not install SharePoint on our server as he says it breaks too many other components. I’m disappointed, as it sounds like technology that even our fairly small company – 35 users – could use to facilitate communication.

  14. Simon Says:

    Doug
    Thats a shame – it would be worth getting another box just for Sharepoint. I don’t think the dependency issue is going to improve even though thats what seems to have killed Vista.

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