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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Happy Birthday, spreadsheet"

PC Mag columnist and tech critic John Dvorak on spread sheets.

"2009 marks the 30-year anniversary of the now-ubiquitous spreadsheet program. And society as a whole has deteriorated ever since its invention. It was the spreadsheet that triggered the PC revolution, with VisiCalc the original culprit. Can anyone say that we've actually benefited from its invention? Look around: I think we've suffered.

For one thing, the spreadsheet created the "what if" society. Instead of moving forward and progressing normally, the what-if society questions each and every move we make. It second-guesses everything. Because of the spreadsheet we've been forced to "do the numbers" whenever possible; once the numbers are in the spreadsheet, the what-if process can begin.

In fact, the spreadsheet has resulted in the rise of the once-lowly accountant/bean counter to a position of influence—and often the executive suite. How often in years past—the pre-spreadsheet era, that is—did an accountant take over a company? When and why did the CFO become a title? These people, at best, were once known as comptrollers.

I don't blame any of these folks for taking advantage of the spreadsheet and the evolution of what-if. But why give them the keys to the car when you knew they couldn't drive? Look around and see what's happened. You can thank the spreadsheet for all of this junk. Happy birthday."
Well, putting an accountant in the driver's seat is certainly not advisible if the business seeks innovation $$ and relies a lot on open pipe R&D. They would never come to terms with something that yields return over the long term, something that is an exclusive preserve of the visionary. But guess who gets called in when you need those dollars to kick it in? Go to an investor and the first thing he would ask is "show me the RoI" ; and the bean counter is ushered in - that is to say, spread his sheet :-)

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