Should PLM take Excel to the Cloud?

I’d like to get back to Excel discussion. I think that Excel is a really good application. And I don’t believe that somebody will argue with me… I’ll go even further and say – Excel is too good! Excel is used everywhere. Manufacturing enterprises heavily rely on Excel in order to manage literally everything. I wrote in one of my previous posts “How PLM can beat Excel…” and got responses like – Nobody can beat Excel.

I see that many companies are trying to take Excel to a different level. In most of the cases companies are taking the Excel User Experience and building storage models on the server. In some cases, companies allow you to share Excel files for multi-user access or, as alternative, load information from Excel files into a database. The common denominator for all these activities is that a useful and successful Excel user experience tries to get into the collaborative space where people share data and information, and manage enterprise processes. There are only a few companies in this space like Expresso and SmartSheets, but there are much more that are trying to say “Don’t call us Excel online”. Actually Microsoft themselves have entered the race of trying to overtake Excel upstream. Therefore MS Excel Services provides capabilities to render information in an Excel-like way on an internet browser.

Now, there are a few questions I’d like to address Is this a real deal for enterprises? Just to move data in an Excel-like way? In this case, perhaps PLM companies need to refocus from management of processes in the enterprises and shift to management of Excel in the enterprises? This is a type of dream – we will be able to talk to zillions of Excel (sheets?) engineering users created in their organization and just moving them into the cloud space ;)? Done deal! Solved problem! No need for mails, no need to create anything more complicated! Everybody can access information, collaborate etc. Huh?… Something is wrong. In the past, we said that this applies to multiple newcomers in the technology world – VMS, DB2, Oracle, Access, Java, XML, UML… I can continue this list. The problem is not technical – the problem is not a technical solution. Probably there is NO technical solution to the problem! In my view, this problem is an engineering problem. We need to engineer our product data (actually Product IP) in a similar way that we engineer our product itself (plane, car, telephone etc.),

Moving to Excel on the cloud, online, or in any centralized storage in the enterprise will not solve the engineering problems of your enterprise data management. You still need to decide how to manage information in your enterprise. You still need to decide how to manage Product IP. And this is a fundamental need and role that belongs to a PLM system. Excel will not solve your problem in my view – it can only provide you with an easy to view user experience to handle data for the user.

I will be glad to hear you feedback for this discussion.


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