PLM and Spreadsheetware

PLM and Spreadsheetware


The debates about PLM and Excel are heating up. The discussion started in earlier blog posts by Lionel Grealou and Jos Voskuil. In addition to that you can read some of my posts from last week related to PLM and Excel – PLM: Need for speed and PLM vs. Spreadsheets: Bullfight and Prohibition.

I’m glad Ed Lopategui joined the conversation about PLM and Excel with his article – Your PLM Logic is Useless: Because I’m Excel. I love how Ed called Excel – The Batman of PLM. Here is my favorite passage:

Excel is the Batman of Product Lifecycle Managment (PLM), a vigilante working outside the system that benefits truly unfettered fanaticism and simultaneously annoys the cognizant authorities. You’ve got to hand it to Excel for its amazing versatility, the amount of surprises in that utility belt has kept the mighty spreadsheet relevant after all these years. Excel’s flexibility is both a blessing and a curse for information governance strategy the world over, and that includes especially PLM. Oh Excel, is there anything that people can’t twist you into doing? After all, some enterprising individuals have used Excel for some rather unusual things over the years.

So, can we say PLM defeated by Excel and we just need to go and hire Chief Excel Officer to run Excel-based PLM system? In my view, PLM vendors made multiple attempts to defeat spreadsheets.  Even so, none of them produced something that can be qualified with something that investors call 10x better than competitors. I hope some vendors will disagree. Please do. And send me customer testimonials attached to your disagreement. Maybe jury is still out. Who knows…

If we cannot defeat Excel and reinvent a new thing, maybe we can embrace it? So, would some sort of smart integration can be helpful? One of the top VC companies in Silicon Valley Andreessen Horowitz just put a bet on a company Blockspring, which is planning to reinvent the way we work with Spreadsheets in Excel and Google. TechCrunch article just put an article about it earlier today – Smart Spreadsheet Service Blockspring Raises $3.4 Million. The idea of Blockspring in a nutshell is to bring the power of Web programming into Spreadsheets. If you familiar with Web APIs and RESTful services, you should love Smart Spreadsheets. It helps to call online services to populate and update data in spreadsheets. Look on the following video for more details – Paul Katsen, of Blockspring founders makes a demonstration of some neat features:

What is my conclusion? PLM vendors tried to defeat spreadsheets and failed so far. Maybe we should stop our attempts to replace spreadsheets and empower engineering IT folks with smart PLM spreadsheetware? As I predicted few years ago, PLM folks need to learn Web APIs. REST APIs can be used together with spreadsheet services to prevent cloud integration spaghetti. That would be a way to help Excel not to be useless in running some business logic. And it certainly solves some problems related to data import and update. I’m not sure it will solve all PLM problems. But this is clearly an interesting attempt to bring some fresh blood into PLM vs Excel fight. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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