The spreadsheet is a method of programming for non-programmers. You do not have to understand classes, strong or weak typecast, interpretive or compiled languages, SQL, or any of the usual IT skills to program a spreadsheet. You only need to understand your subject well and have an analytic mind.
The limitations with programming in spreadsheets have been that the data and logic are intertwined. As soon as you break that link, the potential for spreadsheets becomes massively enhanced. If an application has relatively complicated logic, or if the logic is localised to the business, it makes more sense to develop using spreadsheets than by traditional methods. It is much faster, easily understood by the people who are reading it, and can be adapted, either temporarily or permanently by management rather than IT.
This does not preclude the involvement of IT. There will always be a need for data to be transferred from ‘hard’ data sources – the company transactional data – to ‘soft data’ usages such as budgeting and planning in general. There will also be an advantage in having IT able to access ‘spreadsheet’ data, if, for no other reason, as a housekeeping and policing operation.
Here’s a typical scenario – a construction company has many building projects. Each one is individual, but all share common characteristics – they require groundwork, foundations, and all the trades. There is a clear case for using spreadsheets to express each project, and often each component of a project. If all these sheets feed straight into a database, then the business can standardise the methodology without losing the ability to handle special cases, and each time any calculation or adjustment is made, the figures are immediately available to all who need them, without any need for messy and error-inducing collation of data. The management function then becomes to build up a library of spreadsheet templates that represent the flow of data in the individual business. Many of these will turn out not to be specific to the business, so will become standardised across many different businesses or business types, while others will be developed by making simple changes to standard models.
Azquo presages a paradigm shift in programming methods, putting the power to program into the hands of managers, enabling them quickly to create simple-to-understand and bug-free programs without the involvement of IT, while relieving IT of the responsibility of constantly needing to create new management reports. This will be the next generation of programs.