But Joe, if users commonly have problems with a tool, isn't it an indication that the tool isn't easy to use, and if so, not such a good tool? If a tool is meant to be used widespread --- and Excel is on nearly every computer at work --- shouldn't it be designed for ease of use?
@SaneIT: Without championing Excel, there are some problems with this argument.
For instance, Tricia writes:
"A co-worker did not understand how to use the formulas correctly, which resulted in the wrong totals being reported. The list continued and most of it was related to lack of skill or attention to detail."
So...the problem was other people's stupidity, poor training, and inattention. Let's not blame the hammer because the carpenter bashed it against his head instead of the 2x4.
And to your point: "it's working, stop messing with it" -- well, if I was an Excel-using manager watching my employees constantly screw it up, I'd take that attitude too!
> " In this case what the manager probably needs is a handful of examples that show how often the data is wrong and the problems that it causes."
That certainly works for some people, but let's remember, of course, that anecdotal evidence is not the plural of science.
Excel is a tool with its uses. There are far more advanced tools that can do really nifty things and are more user-friendly, to be sure, but let's not dump all over Excel simply because certain people don't know how to read a formula.
Habit and attempts to save money are not easy to overcome even when shown it's fighting against us. The managers who keep the old ways even when in the case of Excel, will eventually see the real problems in getting accruracy around the department and among departments when everyone has there own data collecting and recording favorite method.
Excel certainly isn't the best tool for everything, or even most things, but it can be a darn useful tool at times. Additionally, all those tales of woe of people misunderstanding or screwing something up can be fixed by training and even by technology solutions (for instance, there are many ways to lock formulas and prevent editing).
For the sake of argument, I would posit that *one* advantage Excel offers (other than the obvious: being ubiquitous and low cost) is that -- unless you're lazy or not paying attention (which, unfortunately, is most people a lot of the time) -- it tends to compel understanding if you want to do anything useful with it or glean anything insightful from it (albeit not necessarily in the most efficient or effective way).
Conversely, a lot of GUI-based, "plug-and-play" solutions tend to impede true understanding when it comes to the "behind the scenes" of data reporting and data analysis -- as I've written about for A2 previously, here: allanalytics.com/author.asp?section_id=1408&doc_id=241161
@Tricia. Misusing Excel in terms of collecting numerical data, customer names and the like is bad enough. Where I've developed headaches over the years is when someone uses Excel to collect just text-based forms data. So there might be 200 or more rows, each with columns for name, address, company, but then longer-form text entries of several hundred words. So, you end up reading what amounts to articles as someone describes a learning experience, an issue with their manager, or a problem with a product, etc.
When people are completing qualitative surveys some of those rows extend from "A" and "B" to "ZZ". They expect us to read that way!
I run into this not only as comfort but as "it's not broke, don't fix it" which is a tad bit short sighted because it's broken, they just don't realize it until way down the line. In this case what the manager probably needs is a handful of examples that show how often the data is wrong and the problems that it causes. These examples need to be brought along with the system/processes to prevent these errors. Without those pieces the manager will likely continue down the path of "it's working, stop messing with it."
IN this case the organization had some extremely advanced tools and could have bypassed anyone doing work in the spreadsheet and simply had the end result output to XLS format. It would have resolved the issues of calculating in the wrong columns, bad formulas, etc.
I guess it is resistance to change because why would you drink the magic elixer over continuing to suffer.
You make a good point @Jessica Davis. The person describing this situation had pleaded with him to make the right decision. She was asking my advise on how to pull him toward a better tool. Every arguement we brainstormed she had already tried.
I believe the guy is stubborn. The only way you combat that situation is with upper management issuing a directive. I don't think the person I spoke with thought that would provide any career enhancement for her.