Spreadsheets are ubiquitous in modern business and Microsoft’s Excel dominates the market. The computer giant has consistently beaten down each rising competitor of the last 10+ years to cement its position as the undisputed king of spreadsheets.
But what of the future of Excel?
In this forward-looking article, ed we make some bold predictions and share some radical ideas about the features and functionality that might appear in Excel over the next few years.
Currently Excel is primarily confined to just a single-user. Yes, tadalafil there are beginnings of multi-user collaborative functionality e.g. shared workbooks, order which don’t work very well, and SharePoint Excel. Microsoft have had to play catch up in this area with services like Google Docs, which were much quicker to see the demand for more collaborative, web based business productivity tools.
Prediction #1: Much more functionality in this direction to turn Excel into a true multi-user tool.
At the moment security is pretty weak in Excel and can be cracked relatively easily by someone who knows what they’re doing. Because companies store so much confidential and commercially sensitive information in spreadsheets, the demand for better security is high and will only continue to grow.
On the same note, it would be better to be able to define different access privileges (like in a database) so that different people can access certain parts of a file but not others.
Prediction #2: More robust and granular security.
Better Business Intelligence
To be fair, Excel has been getting better in this area, but it has really only scratched the surface so far. Microsoft could take away market share from business intelligence (BI) vendors and ensure continued upgrades for many years to come by enhancing Excel’s BI capabilities to include more of the functionality other BI front-ends already have.
Prediction #3: Microsoft will develop Excel’s BI capabilities to ensure Excel remains a key front-end tool for BI for the masses.
It is still too hard for many average users to connect Excel to a database and extract the information they need. I don’t think it really needs to be that hard!
So many people would find this feature really useful but MS Query looks like it hasn’t been touched by a developer for about ten years.
Prediction #4: We will see more development attention in this area to make the connection and extraction process much easier for non-IT people while also allowing IT to setup connections that users can then consume easily.
Given the popularity of iPads and other tablet devices, Microsoft won’t be able to resist these markets, nor should they. They need a product that runs natively on these mobile devices, rather than relying on terminal services apps or apps that only provide 75% compatibility.
Prediction #5: We will see MS Excel for the iPad and Android very soon.
Excel has some great ways of visualising data in the variety of charts and diagrams included in the software. However, there are still many areas where BI tools and specialist charting packages walk all over Excel.
Apart from Sparklines and some extra styles, very little has changed in charting for about 10 years. If Microsoft make it easy for developers to create and sell their own chart add-ins (see below), this could all change very rapidly.
Prediction #6: We will see this area opened up so that users can get the charts and data visualisations they really want.
MS Access Takeover
Excel’s current tables are a great way for keeping data in a single table – they were the single biggest improvement in Excel 2007 (in my view).
However they fall far short of relational databases when connecting two or more tables together; ensuring records in one table match another table (referential integrity), inputting data into more than one table and reporting from more than one table.
With some relatively minor enhancements, Excel tables could take over much of the functionality that Microsoft Access has been doing with SQL Server left to handle the bigger end of town.
Prediction #7: Given that Microsoft has not been putting as much effort into Access, my feeling is that Excel’s capabilities in this area will be enhanced to the point where it can take over from Access. So many people use it like a database already anyway, why not give them a few extra tools and make it official?
If Apple can do it, why not Microsoft? Apple have found a way to generate huge revenues by making it easy for developers and consumers to connect. Microsoft could do the same so that developers could sell templates, add-ins and other customisations right there inside the MS Office products. Given the ubiquitous nature of Excel, there would surely be a huge market for innovative apps for business.
Prediction #8: The current Office Marketplace will become far more iTunes-like.
While I don’t have a special hotline to Microsoft I think Excel could be so much more! These are just my predictions … please don’t think that I’ve somehow gotten my hands on an alpha version of Microsoft Excel 2020!
They are just a few things that seem both likely and desirable to me. But if you know someone at Microsoft who works on Excel, feel free to forward a copy of the article to them. Then, if they adopt some of my suggestions, I’ll look REALLY clever!