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Author's profile photo Donald Maccormick

Excel – How Much is Too Much ?

Excel.jpgJohn Freeze over at C5Insight wrote a great post recently titled “Excel Overload How Much is Too Much”. I particularly liked his sign off from the blog:

“I use Excel nearly every day and will continue to do so … I also use my toothbrush daily, and while I could, I don’t try to wash my car with it.”

The big difference here is that whilst no-one seems to be tempted to use their toothbrush to wash their car, all too often we are sucked into using Excel for projects which stretch the limits of what is sensible.

This is an issue which is inherited by SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (aka Xcelsius). John goes on to identify four key issues caused by overuse of Excel, three of which apply directly to Xcelsius:

1) It is very easy for any user to accidentally make a change that corrupts the integrity of the report.  An EXCEL spreadsheet, especially a very large one is very prone to having errors introduced any time changes are made or data is entered.

3) When a new view of the data or new report is needed, there is often a bottleneck that occurs while you wait on the “EXCEL Guru” to have time to make it happen.

4) Especially with larger, more complex spreadsheets, it takes a lot of time to make changes, while ensuring that the changes don’t impact the integrity of another part of the spreadsheet.  Changes that are seemingly simple, can in fact take hours or days, including lots of troubleshooting to identify issues.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Xcelsius and its innovative use of Excel was the single biggest reason for its success. However, the Excel spreadsheet is also the single biggest reason for the complexity of so many Xcelsius dashboards, because as users require more features in their dashboards, so the underlying spreadsheet becomes more complex and sooner rather than later falls foul of the three issues identified above.

However, there is a way to significantly reduce this problem and perhaps eliminate it altogether. The vast majority of formulas in an interactive Xcelsius dashboard are there to create multi-dimensional (or OLAP) views on the data. This is how ALL business users want to see their data (by product, by time, by region, by …), but this is something which Excel formulas are particularly unsuited to, because Excel is inherently 2-dimensional (or perhaps 2.25 dimensional if you use multiple sheets).

The solution to this is to embed OLAP capabilities directly into the Xcelsius dashboard and this is exactly what XWIS from Antivia does, making it easy to connect to corporate data and to display and manipulate this data multi-dimensionally, just as users want it, all without having to write Excel formulas.

So, if you want to dramatically reduce the time, complexity and cost of creating dashboards in SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards/Xcelsius, by eliminating unnecessary Excel formulas, then take a look at the short (6min) video below or visit the XWIS Advantage site at

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      Author's profile photo Gregory Misiorek
      Gregory Misiorek

      for all the dislike of Excel by IT, there's an equal amount of like by finance, esp when they can whip out their toothbrushes at moment's notice and don't need to create a ticket or change request for it. for all the multidimensionality of subtotals, they all come down to one single-dimensional number, be it a ratio, a percentage rate, or $, euro, etc. and they know how to use their pivot tables, too.

      Author's profile photo Donald Maccormick
      Donald Maccormick
      Blog Post Author

      Gregory, I guess that is the point. Some use of Excel makes a lot of sense it is just that too often things get overly complex. Similarly with Xcelsius, the use of Excel formulas is one of its great strengths it is just a question of not overusing them. The problem is that with Xcelsius as it comes out of the box that is often hard to avoid. This is the problem we are trying to address with XWIS.

      Author's profile photo Gregory Misiorek
      Gregory Misiorek


      i'm hoping the small size of some of the WP8 hardware (as compared to desktop) will force some sanity on Excel users once they see that only about 60 cells are really visible to them.

      too many formulas (read custom code) in any application on any device is a problem (that IT likes solving).

      good luck with XWIS.



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Donald

      Good to see XWIS Components are minimizing Excel formulas usage but do you have any idea in which release version these XWIS Components will be available



      Author's profile photo Donald Maccormick
      Donald Maccormick
      Blog Post Author


      XWIS is available to work with both Xcelsius 2008 and SAP Dashboards and will work with either XI3 or the BI4 platform. More details at