There are, and always have been a stack of ‘better than spreadsheet’ applications trying to encourage spreadsheeters away from their big grids. Improv, I’m looking at you.
Many of the live spreadsheets I see are ugly, damned ugly. Most of them would be far better in almost any other tech,( even an abacus for some of them!).
And I think from this mess of live spreadsheets, people think that a better tool will result in better applications to replace theses ugly pugly indirect offset nightmares.
Thats a fallacy though. Heres why:
The spreadsheet is the journey not the destination. When you look at a live spreadsheet you are not seeing what the developer initially intended, you are seeing all the twists and turns, scope creep, blind alleys and good days and bad days of the development lifecycle. And more often than not you see the shortcuts the developer had to make to meet the (perhaps constantly changing) timescales.
The main strengths of spreadsheets is their ability to support the developer laying out their ideas, and developing them over time. This is why I think they are a great (unmatched?) prototyping tool. What’s left after it goes live is often suboptimal, which is why I’m a big fan of migrating stabilised spreadsheets to a more production ready technology. But I have yet to see a tools that supports that freeform brain dump-organise-enhance-use cycle as well as a spreadsheet.
I think the opportunity is in migrating spreadsheets to technologies that better support live use, things like databases to organise data into an easy to maintain structure, and code to allow the full suite of dev tools like source control, static analysis, code metrics etc. I am convinced the spreadsheet step needs to be in there in a great many cases.
What do you think?