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In Depth Information
Why Excel on the Server?
These needs usually span more than just workbooks. Documents (such as legal documents, human
resource records, and product specifications), presentations, and e-mails all need to be controlled and
managed. But there is no doubt that these requirements are especially relevant for workbooks that may
include official financial reports, organizational budgets, trade records, and so forth.
Workbooks stored on local machines, copied from file share systems, and distributed as e-mail
attachments are hard to track, control, and manage. This creates the potential for inefficiency and costly
mistakes when people are basing their work and decisions on the wrong workbook. In this age of compliance
and regulations, the concerns are even more acute.
The needs discussed thus far focused on distributing workbooks. The next two sections focus on
incorporating workbooks, the models they represent, and the results of those models in web-based applications,
dashboards, and custom solutions.
Incorporating Spreadsheets in Dashboards
The Excel client is perhaps the most used tool for data analysis and reporting. Whether the data originates
in Excel or in some back-end system, users find a way to get it into Excel so that they can manipulate it,
analyze it, and format the data and their findings for printing and sharing more broadly.
But when you look at what are considered the BI solutions within companies, Excel is usually not formally
part of them. In fact, it is often explicitly called out as not being part of the sanctioned data analysis and
reporting solution. Why? Here are two primary reasons.
BI solutions are essentially used for decision support, and it is critical that the numbers viewed in them
are 100 percent trusted and secure. As mentioned previously, distributing workbooks as e-mail
attachments may result in errors due to people looking at the wrong version or changing data they are not
supposed to. When you look at typical BI solutions, they usually include a portal element that enables
web-based report and analysis distribution. Distributing reports and analysis this way provides easy
broad access, as well as the security and control necessary to ensure that the consumers of a report are
looking at the correct report, can only access the data they are privileged to access, and cannot change
(by accident or on purpose) the sanctioned data and results.
In addition, BI solutions often include dashboards, which enable the visual display of critical data in
summary form. For example, a management dashboard may provide a complete view on the operations
of a project, department, or company A customer dashboard may provide a sales representative with all
the information and data available about a customer. The key to dashboards is the ability to combine
different views on data, different data, and different content types all on the same page to give you a
complete view for tracking information and making decisions. Although you can embed different data and
objects in Excel workbooks, and build dashboards directly in the workbook, most BI dashboards are
web-based. This allows for the greatest flexibility in incorporating different content types.
Leveraging Spreadsheet Models in Custom Solutions
The business logic that drives many applications is first defined in Excel workbooks. Excel workbooks
are used to model such things as sales commissions, pricing and discounts models, and stock trades.
Excel affords rapid development of these models in the hands of users who understand the business