Spreadmarts: The Spreadsheet Debate

The term spreadmarts was coined by Wayne Eckerson in 2002. The term refers to the partial sets of data that accumulate when users export data from their BI solution into a spreadsheet.

How do spreadsheets fit in with your BI solution? This is a topic that is highly debatable. People in organizations have become so accustomed to putting data into a spreadsheet and manipulating the data before sending it off to VPs and executives to make important company decisions. The biggest danger here is that the data in spreadsheets is not linked to current data. The figures may be outdated before they even reach the desks of decision makers, causing errors in decision making. Each individual that generates a spreadsheet usually has different rules and formulas that are used to aggregate data, so when errors arise deciphering the meaning of the data can become costly and time consuming.

What’s the solution? Most BI solutions provide users with the capability of rendering data in a format that is user friendly while still being connected to the data warehouse. Users will typically shy away from using the BI solution because they are more familiar with Excel spreadsheets and they feel comfortable with the tool. In order to encourage user adoption you will first need to understand the concerns that the users have by questioning them using non-threating terminology. You will be able to slowly increase user adoption rates by explaining and demonstrating some of the benefits that a BI solution has over Excel spreadsheets. In short, show the users how the BI solution can make their jobs easier. Something as simple as report auto-generation and scheduling will save the user time. Demonstrate that BI reports have the same, and more capabilities as spreadsheets. Another strong point to reference is that “homemade” spreadsheets can’t be supported by IT and they usually die when the creator of the report leaves the company. Reports generated through a BI solution are supported by IT and they can easily be transferred to different users.




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