Archive for January, 2009

Are Excel users cutting edge?

Thursday, 29th January, 2009

The last post wondered if your average Exceller was a bit of a dinosaur.

Here I wonder if it is the opposite, or a combination.

I think when a spreadsheet user first builds a model they are being truly cutting edge in a great many cases. They are pushing their, and often their organisations understanding of their data resources. Later when they adapt that model for new knowledge or changes in process, still some cutting edgedness.

When they finally stabilise the spreadsheet and just start updating the data and grinding the handle, at that point I start to see the dinosaur aspect creeping in.

Spreadsheets are great for discovering new insight, once that has stabilsed into a regular report or dashboard, at that point I think there could be advantages to looking beyond spreadsheets, at least for some parts.

Examples would be server based tech that allows multiple users, or compiled components that provide more stability, other presentation options, etc.

What do you think?

Are Excel users dinosaurs?

Wednesday, 28th January, 2009

I totally accept there are plenty of valid uses so I’m not making any blanket statements here.


Are big Excel users out of date dinosaurs?
Of course there are a few people doing genuinely novel analysis, for whom something as flexible as a spreadsheet makes the most sense.

Lots of people though create reports/analysis once and just update the data and publish (probably by printing on dead tress and binding in a comb binder right?)

Are these folks just out of date with the last 20 years worth of software development progress?

Shouldn’t they be consuming data from some web service and publishing their analysis via some OLAP silverlight tomfoolery? All by dragging some nice shapes around on a screen?(or 3D Minority Report UI)  And of course consuming all that data on a myriad of devices, including handhelds – and perhaps that new watch mobile I read about recently.

If a new company started up and banned spreadsheets would it fail for not being agile enough ?

What if the data part could not be saved, just the logic? Thats like many of the enterprise reporting apps.

And are spreadsheets holding back the adoption of other richer technologies?

Now, I think spreadsheets are stunning at all sort of things, but the most common use I see is probably data holding and transmission, both of which could be better done by other tech.

When you look around your company or other companies or on-line or whatever are you struck by how many people are really leveraging the benefits of spreadsheets whilst managing their weaknesses? Or like me, do you see lots of examples of people painting themsleves into a corner by the way they use spreadsheets?

(I am not pretending I am purely a spectator in this – I just delivered a spreadsheet horror to a client, supa-mega-urgent-massive-late-changes meant the Access based system that I had designed and started building had to be paused whilst I threw together a (hopefully) temporary crisis avoidance tool.)



The joy of blogging

Tuesday, 27th January, 2009

My Acer one suddenly stopped seeing the network last night – for no apparent reason.

I thought nothing of it just assuming the local network was down.

Today it still wasn’t working so I decided to investigate. Various settings and rebooting later it still wasn’t seeing the network, infact it didn’t see any.

At which point I remembered the hassle I had initially setting it up and my heart sank.

Then I remembered that I had blogged about it – no use though as I couldn’t connect! Then I remebered that I’m susbscribed to this blog through Thunderbird. Yahoo, found the post.

And lo, its the same problem – the hardware network switch had turned itself off. This happens with one of the kids machines too so I don’t thinks its completely operator error.

Glad I blogged about it! (and kept a local copy!)



Blog Update

Monday, 26th January, 2009

Sorry its been a bit quiet here the last week or two.

I am somewhat busy and have had intermittent internet connectivity. Both of which look set to continue. But hopefully I can work out a way to get posts written and published.

I do expect the post rate to drop to 2 or 3 a week though.




Thursday, 22nd January, 2009

I have been watching the tech company reports recently.

These are pretty exciting time to be in tech. (not that I am ‘in tech’ in terms of financial investments – I’m not)

Sometime ago I posted about how I thought Googles business model was more resilient than Microsoft’s in these hard times. I think the results today bear that out.

I read reports of Google serving up many more ads in the run up to Christmas which I’m sure boosted their numbers. MS don’t really have that luxury.

Not sure how long it will continue though – are you?

Also I am noticing a lot of positive buzz around Win 7, perhaps the tables will be turned next quarter?




Tuesday, 20th January, 2009

Sometimes one might like to submit a spreadsheet somewhere for some help or support or whatever.

Often spreadsheets contain sensitive info, normally the main part of that is the text.

So great news then than Codematic today announces the release of a little workbook with a bit of VBA in that will enable you to remove or replace all that sensitive text.

Full details here

Its only been very basically tested, so if you come up with any issues please let me know.

If you would like to use it to help Microsoft in their quest for poor performing VBA in 2007 then please do.

It doesn’t do names, or styles or anything clever, just text. The code is unprotected, if you come up with an enhancement please leave the code as a comment.

Please let us know how you get on



Back, rod, own, for, made

Thursday, 15th January, 2009

Rearrange this well known… You know the drill…

[if english is not your first language – we have a phrase ‘To make a rod for your own back’ which means to do something that causes you problems later)

We’ve been discussing the business/IT divide.

I work both sides, which is not dissimilar to everyones hero Clint in ‘A fist full of dollars’.

If I do a job for finance its under the radar, just get on, work out what is needed, and deliver. No overhead, no hassle. Sometimes there is a project manager, but generally they are hands off.

If its for IT or some other shared service centre, then suddenly I have to record my time against a bunch of nonsense headings, I have to report progress against some made up estimate. If a project is estimated at 400 hours and I have spent 200, does that mean I am halfway through? with only 200 hours to delivery? well that depends on the accuracy of the 400 hour estimate that generally I don’t make. As that estimate was used to bring me in in the first place.

All the recording and reporting and justifying takes it toll. Whilst it doens’t take that long to do it does take attention away from the key thing which is delivering systems that add business value.

I remember one place I was in a meeting, there was me, the customer and 4 barely connected managers. a project manager, an IT manger, a compliance manager, I can’t remember the other, beverage manger?? In then end me and the customer cancelled the meetings and I just went and set next to them – progress took off.!

And of course someone has to consolidate the figures for all the projects, report them, someone has to be reported to, etc.

So my question is this:

Does the business force IT departments to quote high cost long time scales for projects because they make them work so hard to justify their existence?

The irony of course is that having made internal IT departments jump through hoops to justify themselves, the business then go externally to cut cost and bureacratic overhead!




(oh and have a good weekend)

(In case you didn’y realise I’m no fan of that silly 90’s fad the internal service department)

Sarbox and jobs

Thursday, 15th January, 2009

Here is one unhappy bunny suggesting Sarbox has not been that great.

Now I have personally been involved in a few Sarbanes Oxley projects and Codematic tools have been used on plenty more. And I know its sustaining a mini industry in compliance and control tools and projects.

(not sustaining enough for Compassoft though – too much posh wine?)

( ‘the leading provider of governance, risk and compliance solutions’ – now bankrupt. I assume they were in full compliance themselves?? And left no unsecured creditors out of pocket?)

So in terms of employment, Sarbox has helped a few in the control and compliance world.

The author’s agument in that piece though is that it stifled innovation in silicon valley, but added very little real transparency. Bearing in mind the Madoff ‘investment’ fiasco, I think its hard to disagree.

what do you think?



Win 7 beta

Tuesday, 13th January, 2009

Have you got yours yet?

I don’t see how I could get chance to even have a look, unless those nice MS folks are giving away fully configured lappers again?

Let me know if you need my free laptop receving address…

I spose if there was a ready to go VPC I may get chance to fire it up

Anyone planning to take a look?

I would like to know if its true they made the task bar bigger at the bottom and you can’t resize it. That would turn a netbook with Office 2k7 and Win7 into a gynaecology endeavour.



Dead batteries

Saturday, 10th January, 2009

My main Windows web machine died completely last week. Its a 2-4 year old Acer laptop, never been off mains power. Of course I know that will eventually kill the battery…

It would not turn on, no lights no nothing. I left it charging overnight, nothing, different power lead, nothing. No power lead – nothing.

Wandering round t’intarwebs I saw the suggestion to try it on the mains without the battery. Now its working fine, the battery is obviously more than knackered.

I thought lappers only worked with the battery in? and thats why they give brown out/black out protection?

Is that just an old wives tale like filling the kettle at night in case there’s an air raid?

This could call for a dramic restructuring of the Codematic Continuous Service Department (CCSD – also know as Codematic Non Stop ™). (i.e. I’ll get a new battery for the UPS that died some time ago).

What do other laptop users do to look after the battery?