Spreadsheets have been the bane of BI professionals and vendors for years. If you take 1) a business user who wants to get his job done, 2) inexpensive spreadsheet software, and 3) multiply by a factor of [number of business analysts and executives], the result is often chaos - not for the end user, mind you, but for the business, which often throws up its hands trying to figure out which of the 12 spreadsheets labeled "Q4 Revenue" is correct. This is one of the main reasons that BI vendors have done so well selling their wares - they point out that they offer a single version of the truth - not an insignificant benefit for a large and complex corporation.

Nevertheless, employees continue to use spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel for two main reasons: they don't need to get IT involved if they want to crunch some numbers, and the user interface is straightforward and easy to use. After ranting about Excel for years, some BI vendors finally made an uneasy truce with it several years ago. For example, both Business Objects and SAS can now pump data into Excel from their server-based repositories. Users get the interface they like, and the corporation gets the data consistency it needs.

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