Archive for January, 2010

Should I use VSTO?

Thursday, 28th January, 2010

I got an email about this recently.

So here is my answer:

if you are developing in a homogeneous corporate environment


If you are using Visual Studio 2008 and Office 2007 then VSTO is very compelling for a lot of reasons. Even more so if VS2010 and/or Office 2010 are looming in your near future.

If you are using older versions of either VS or Office or are supporting multiple client configurations then I would say not to develop VSTO at this stage.

I havent done much with VS2005 VSTO (not many people have!), but my sense from work with prior versions and reading around is that there is little payback for the pain or using C# (or I guess – good luck finding documentation!), and the deployment hassles.

I’m also not sure how good the migration story is from 2003/2005 to later versions.

My advice would be to concentrate on a loosely coupled design so that parts can be migrated to more suitable technology piecemeal as and when a viable cost/benefit exists.

I’m actually working in VSTO 2008 (and O2007) at the moment and its quite a pleasant surprise.

I’ll blog more on that as I get time.



Ribbon Zero

Wednesday, 20th January, 2010

Ribbon zero game

Bloody hell
(to echo Rob B)
They obviously never heard the expression about flogging a dead horse, or the one about when to stop digging.

Surely there comes a point when someone has to say:

OK we messed up, the calamity UI is an adoption blocker. Lets bring in a compatibility mode, because our customers are not buying our thin excuses for devaluing their investments in learning our products.

Perhaps they could just point people to the magnificent classic tab from those nice codematic chaps.

Lets hope these Web apps version are good enough (and popular enough!) to justify the pain they have caused.

Obviously I havent played the game, if I wanted to play games I would buy a psp.

Did you play it? is it good? did it help you migrate to 2010?

(I’m actually really looking forward to 2010 but for other reasons than the UI)



Excel Jobs

Tuesday, 12th January, 2010

I’ve had a sniff of a couple of Excel jobs.

1. a part time but possibly long term consulting gig. You need to be based oop north for this, or at least able to get to near Ilkley moor (bah’t’at or wi’it) easily.

2. full time contract role in Geneva.

Both roles need decent Excel and VBA, for the second a bit of Visual Studio wouldn’t do any harm.

If you are interested in either please drop me a note and I will pass your details to the relevant people. Please include a cv for the second.



Spreadsheet Risk Call For Papers

Sunday, 10th January, 2010

Eusprig, the European Spreadsheet Risk Interest Group are calling for papers for their conference next summer in Greenwich.

More details here.

Eusprig is the premier (and/or only) body (worldwide – the ‘European’ bit is a bit misleading) dedicated to raising awareness of the risks of enterprise spreadsheet use.

Some might argue that they have been a little *too* successful, I certainly get that feeling sometimes when decent spreadsheets are treated like radioactive waste but crappy unusable web apps are feted as the brave new world of productivity.

This years conf is all about how to minimise the risk whilst maximising the value. And its about practical steps to achieve that not just lots are handwaving.

Hope to see you there.



Why BI is a lemon

Thursday, 7th January, 2010

First off let me avoid a whole class of comment by saying that I personally think BI (Business Insight) offers real value when used effectively.

But it is still a lemon (this is not a good thing for anyone not familiar with English colloquisms) as an industry sector.

Here is why:

90% of spreadsheet users are just pointing and clicking

9% are happy doing their favourite index/offset/vlookup/indirect/external link magic and have no interest in learning a new technology, even if it will make a bunch of stuff easier for them. These may have a BI product but still use their fave spreadsheet app to do the heavy lifting.

0.9% used a BI product at a previous job, or want to introduce it anyway, but are blocked by some IT total blockage (‘No’) or major roadblock (‘identify and quantify the business costs, benefits and risks’)

0.1% are happily whizzing through work at 10-100 times faster than the other 99.9% (using a BI product), and with much better business insight. But no one outside this 0.1% listens to them so they are poor influencers. This group is declining in number.

Of course it doesn’t help that BI keeps trying to change its name to avoid the stigma attached to ‘BI’ and try and generate more press.

Its great technology but like so much stuff in the Office/information worker space, its provides potential benefits to a class of user that have no purchasing or configuration power. And that potential user has an ever harder battle on their hands to convince their IT dept to be proactive and make a change in the hope and expectation it will improve things.

It depts have several teams. The config team doesn’t want the hassle of the install, config maintenance and licensing. The dev team want the users to use their crappy in house .net/DB2/Oracle/job protection system. Until Jobserve is buckling under the job ads for BI specialists IT dev types will continue to be disinterested by it.

Dunno if this will change as we come out of the depression, I expect not. A few mega success stories, but plausible ones for a change might help. ‘How I cured world hunger by implimeting Essbase and clearing up in options’ might do it. I hope it does, because as I say I think there is major value in decent BI. but I think the class of user with the most to gain have little or no interest. Dunno why, fear change?

what Bo you think from what you see where you work and in other areas?



Business Architect

Thursday, 7th January, 2010

Just saw this ace job advertised for a business architect

Key skill – advanced Powerpoint!

ha ha ha!

No mention of process engineering, broad tech knowledge, or in fact any tech knowledge, or any real business background.

I have worked with some folks who would do well in this role, you know – ‘big picture people’.

I also saw someone wanting 7 Excel/C# devs for a big migration project, that one of my 2010 predictions gaining traction.



Offset WTF

Tuesday, 5th January, 2010

=OFFSET(BC153, -1, 0)

Why would yer?

What advantage does this have over ‘=BC152’?

oh, unless you are deleting stuff and want to avoid #Refs maybe?




2010 predictions

Sunday, 3rd January, 2010

Its a little hard to focus on IT issues, never mind spreadsheets at this time of year, especially after I had a banging skate session yesterday – I’d rather be predicting the tricks I hope to grasp. That and the fact we are now snowed in so I’m wondering how to get to the (also snow bound) airport.

This year I am going to break things out a little differently, instead of 10 or so points I thought I would write a paragraph or so about a few different elements of the IT landscape.


  1. Office 2010 will get released in the summer
  2. VS 2010 will get released at a similar time
  3. VBA development will decline, possibly freefall, as Excel is squeezed into the narrow presentation layer of corp data. Server based .net components and stored procedures etc will do much of the manipulations that traditionally were done in VBA. (larger orgs only – but Excel/C# will be the skill set that replaces Excel/VBA)
  4. Spreadsheets will continue to be (unfairly) seen as the enemy of quality
  5. Microsoft’s influence will begin to visibly wane, due to the move to the cloud and the move to hand held computing
  6. Spreadsheets still not sexy, may well become the technology whose name we speaketh not.
  7. I don’t foresee a big rush to O2010, but I do think 2010 will benefit from 2007 flaws, like Win7 has from Vistas crapness.
  8. Sharepoint will become the new End User Computing v IT battleground


  1. Apple will be the big name in 2010 with big success with the new iPhone and any new iSlate thingy. Gen 1 netbook upgraders and iPhone lovers will snap up any new Apple form factor (and not be worried about the zero control Apple customers have over the hardware they thought they bought, but Apple continues to control, rather firmly)
  2. Apples pc/notebook share will continue to climb at the expense of Windows


  1. A chunk of computing will move from the pc to the phone
  2. Android and the iPhone will become the 2 main phone operating systems
  3. Software spend is going to get big on these platforms


  1. OLAP/BI won’t make any massive headway as IT focus on security and regulation, and reduce the priority of user requests.
  2. Increasing regulation covering all areas of life
  3. Linux still isn’t going to make it on the desktop, although I reckon Android netbooks will benefit from the halo of Android phones, but in the 2-5 year span

What do you see happening/changing in the next 12 months?