Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spreadsheets Are Back

A recent poll of over one thousand LinkedIn members returned some interesting insights into spreadsheet usage patterns in companies. Respondents were posed with the following statement, and were then asked to provide a single response as follows:
I use spreadsheets _____ in my work.
· Never
· Rarely
· Monthly
· Weekly
· Daily
The results found that 80% of respondents use spreadsheets on a daily basis, while another 11% use spreadsheets weekly. In all, over 90% of respondents are apparently using spreadsheets at least weekly in their jobs.

The other interesting finding was that spreadsheet ubiquity was at its greatest in enterprise and large firms where a full 85% of resondents reported using spreadsheets on a daily basis, while another 10% reporting weekly usage.

One respondent left a comment claiming to have selected "daily" only because "constantly" and "hourly" were not offered as options. Still another respondent voiced surprise that "daily" users were less than 95%. One apparent critic of spreadsheets commented that the poll was "a waste of time."

Results were generally even across age groups. However, males reported somewhat higher daily spreadsheet usage than females. The survey was open to all LinkedIn users between April 24 and May 19, 2009. There were 1,094 voluntary participants in the survey.



Moderator said...

Very interesting and good to know. Based on this fact I created 'BEST Viewpoints' which is a software intended to be like a 'spreadsheet companion' for simplifying useful tasks such as Pivot Tables and database querying.

elliot_bendoly said...

Nice to see the numbers. I think this is basically what we users all 'expected' to see (though perhaps not what others might have). The big question remains : how are people using it? How many just use it as a rolodex? How many do real 'analysis' with it (ie. something other that keeping track of totals or averages)? How many actually know that it can be used as an application hub to link other powerful tools together?

Arun said...

@elliot: I think you're pretty much right in saying that. In fact, that was pretty much what I was thinking of too. When people say they use Excel every day or every hour, nobody knows what kind of work is being done in Excel.
I'd like another survey done to know how many are aware of the statistical capabilities, tied with the programming capabilities. That would expose the wound that we're all trying to see and heal.

frankmar14 said...

I've been using spreadsheets and training people to use them since the days of VisiCalc on the Apple II. I remember when Lotus was first introduced into the corporate world and how it revolutionized the way corporate finance was performed within a 2-3 year period back in the early/mid 80's. I also remember how Excel hijacked the spreadsheet market from Lotus in the early 90's when Microsoft finally got Windows right with version 3.0. I've used spreadsheets in applications ranging from credit card business volume forecasting to legislative redistricting. I've also taught it as a tool (in Introductory Statistics classes) for almost 15 years.

The use of spreadsheets has not abated in recent years. What has changed is the increasing lack of knowledge on how to REALLY use spreadsheets. Too many people "claim" this knowledge but use it as little more than an ad-hoc word processor. The number of courses in the university and private sectors dedicated exclusively towards teaching people how to use spreadsheets has decreased in recent years. Much of the teaching has shifted into other courses/domains (finance, marketing, etc.). Unfortunately this has resulted in an uneven education for most people. Too often they are only taught the aspects of spreadsheets needed for their specific applications and nothing else. They are not really shown the full potential of spreadsheets as an analytical tool.

I've actually met graduates from highly reputable MBA programs who are not even aware fo the existence of the Data Analysis tools in Excel. Even though they're not perfect they are the most widely available analytical tools in the work world. Until education institutions/corporations wise up and make efforts to educate users early in their careers or academia there will always be a demand for Excel Expert Users even for the most intermediate of skills. Sometimes the challenge is makng organizations aware that they're not getting the full return on their investment in spreadsheet applications

Darren said...

Because of the issues that organizations are facing with maintaining financial modeling Excel spreadsheets the company I work for sells software that allows the user to have the transparency of Excel calculations but is more VB/VBA orientated in a controlled environment.

We are starting to get some traction mainly because spreadsheets are being shared meaning a lack of version control, mixing VBA and Excel functions, just too complex to manage (e.g. if something is added to the model). People are just pushing the boundaries of what Excel is capable of, and more crucially, what they are personally capable of.

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