Some of that Excel development

At one place I worked, the IT department were, you might say, not massively responsive to user needs.

User needs being rapid response (hours or days, rather than months or years) systems development.

The RAD team I was in was a battleground, Users wanting us to rush stuff into production as soon as it compiled, IT wanting us to stop development and start documenting from scratch on new improved word templates. (The improvement being a more consistent theme and styling rather than anything of business value.)

ThenĀ  a funny thing happened – the users stopped calling us.

They had been recruiting assistants with strong Excel VBA dev skills and were bypassing the whole IT rigmarole.

This is where I think a fair chunk of Excel dev work has gone – under the radar, out of IT control, and off the IT job boards.

And when I say strong skills I mean on a business scale rather than a developer scale. ie crap naming, global variables, no design, no testing, lots of macro recorder pap, etc etc.

Overall, I doubt this move will have a positive impact on long term delivery ability, or quality (compared to decent RAD input – you can’t compare to mainstream IT as they wouldn’t have delivered anything, so sure, they would have less production defects).

Anyone else seen this rise of the super user?





4 Responses to “Some of that Excel development”

  1. Paul Christie Says:

    Super User was something I experienced in the mid 80’s when so called user driven computing started. In those days I was working in the construction industry mixing with some very technically adept people to whom the term Super User was appropriate. I’m not sure I’d use the term much these days.

    • wessexbob Says:

      That is my experience too. Then in the 90s, IT tried to put a lid on it, and we have had various initiatives since aimed at devolving power and responsibility to the the business. Unfortunately, most have seemed to be half-hearted attempts, the latest seems to be self-service BI, where MS provide some wonderful tools, that make sure no-one can get hold of them.

  2. Autosoft Says:


    That is the way that I earn a living. Hired by users to get things done when the IT department can’t.

    Joe Serd

    “Once you know it, it’s Easy!”

  3. dougaj4 Says:

    I echo Paul’s comment. It’s been that way in the engineering world since the days of Lotus 123 at least. Now IT driven development of engineering applications is consolidated in a handful of big companies, and at the other end every office has different user developed spreadsheet applications, of variable quality. The result is that people now distrust spreadsheets, but will accept applications written in Mathcad or Matlab without question, even though they are subject to exactly the same problems.

    The solution (and I suspect this applies to the financial world as well) is to switch the focus to rigorous verification of the output, rather than try to ensure that millions of micro-apps are 100% bug free, which is obviously a hopeless task.

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