Spreadsheets are a wonderful tool. However, I too often see them used to create projects that should have been done in a real programming language - almost any real language. These home-brewed monsters are often clumsy, inefficient, gigantic and of course fragile. The effort that goes into creating these is often considerable, and the amusing thing is that the creation of these highly complex sheets involves the same sort of programming logic that any programmer uses, but the people who build these will say that they "aren't programmers".
I was reminded of that in a conversation with someone yesterday. He works at a bank and has developed some complex Excel spreadsheets for various tasks. He and the bank recognize the inefficiency here - that is not recognized at all in many companies, so give them credit for that. They have "real" programmers who translate spreadsheet logic into Visual Basic programs. Good so far, but unfortunately the programmers are always behind schedule, so projects wait.. and wait.. and wait.
So this person asked his bosses if he could take some courses in Visual Basic. Seemed like a good idea to him: if he were halfway good at it maybe he wouldn't need the "real" programmers at all, and even if he did, at least they'd have something better to start with.
You probably can guess the answer: flat no. Oh, he could feel free to take the courses if he wanted, on his own time with his own money. But no help from the bank, and no interest, obviously. Not job related, they explained.
Well, you could argue that both ways, of course, and the real problem probably is that the bank is too big to make exceptions even when it is fairly plain that it would do them good. So he'll go on developing those big clumsy spreadsheets and will continue to wait for the "real" programmers.
Got something to add? Send me email.
More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence