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10/12/2006
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The Spreadsheet: 1979-2006. May It Rest In Peace?

Remember VisiCalc? For those too young to remember the dawning of the PC age in the late '70s and early '80s, VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet app for personal computers and credited with turning the PC from an expensive toy into a serious business tool. But the PC spreadsheet as a key app to drive value in many businesses may have reached its limits, according to a study to be released next week.

Remember VisiCalc? For those too young to remember the dawning of the PC age in the late '70s and early '80s, VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet app for personal computers and credited with turning the PC from an expensive toy into a serious business tool. But the PC spreadsheet as a key app to drive value in many businesses may have reached its limits, according to a study to be released next week.In the Oct. 19 report [registration required], in which The Hackett Group contends world-class companies employing enterprise performance management techniques can double shareholder returns, the IT advisory firm notes that all the companies it surveyed utilize spreadsheets as a standalone budgeting tool, but the smart ones limit their use.

More than half of typical companies report high use of spreadsheets for budgeting, but world-class companies use spreadsheets for budgeting 19% less often, Hackett says. "Using spreadsheets for budgeting purposes opens the organization to potential process breakdowns," wrote the report's authors, Senior Business Advisor John McMahan and Chief Research Officer Richard Roth. "Given their propensity for errors, coupled with the ease with which users can edit and change formulas and assumptions, using a spreadsheet as a standalone budgeting tool makes creating 'one single, reliable version of the truth' difficult."

Somehow I gather Excel spreadsheet provider Microsoft is less concerned with Hackett's conclusions than with Google's recent spreadsheet offering. On Wednesday, Google announced plans to marry its online word processing application, Writely, with Google Spreadsheets.

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