Thursday, January 11, 2007

Keep it simple

So today I found myself amazed by something I probably shouldn't be amazed by. Excel. Yep, that's it, plain old Microsoft Excel. I am not amazed by the fact that I'm amazed by excel, but amazed at how efficient excel is at some things. Excel is one of those offensive linemen apps. You know, the ones that do all of the work, but very little glory. We go to excel when we need something quick and dirty or just need to get the job done. Seldom does it make the cut at presentation time or report time. There are many other tools that are seemingly better at those things. Today, however, I was reminded of how powerful excel is and all of the things it is good at. We had a project where we were tracking event dates within a process. One of the challenges with this sort of project is determining the format of the data. Usually people lay it out with some drawing tool, or maybe a spreadsheet or doc and then the lead pulls all of the info together. Then like a computer geek Mozart they sit down in front of the keyboard and cut and past their masterpiece together from the various formats.

Today I saw the results of some data gathering done by three different people placed in the same format within excel and then that data aligned by date and graphed into a time line. Beyond that the various time lines were able to be lined up, one on top of the other on a single excel page for an eye catching easy to read analysis. It was great. It was easy to read, easy to understand and simple. I wonder how much time we spend over complicating things or over dressing them in the name of presentation. As business seeks more and more information we often talk about bringing together legacy systems and how are we are going to merge the data and present it. As we get better and better at bringing the data together it is only a matter of time before presenting the data in some easy to read, easy to understand format becomes just as important.

Something to think about.

"An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous."
-Henry Ford

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