Published Now and Again for Business Users of Microsoft Excel.
First Hints About Excel 12
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
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other Excel users.
On May 19, at Microsoft's CEO Summit, Bill Gates gave more than 100 chief
executives some hints about the next version of Office.
Also, word has begun to leak out about the 'Maestro' Office Server, which
will bring real-time data to Excel.
Most of this issue is
about these topics. But first...
Please email me about two separate topics.
First, if you've purchased my e-book,
Dashboard Reporting With Excel,
please send me your reactions to the book and files. I'm planning to revise the book in coming months, and I'm thinking about
writing several others. So I would appreciate your feedback, both good and bad.
Second, if you have some good ideas about ways that Excel can be improved,
please explain your ideas clearly and then send them to me. As the following
topic explains, I should be able to pass on the best ideas.
Before I discuss this topic, I must explain a conflict.
I've beta-tested every version of Excel for the PC. It's reasonable to expect
that trend to continue. Therefore, I won't be able
to tell you what I learn about Office 12 from confidential sources. However,
on the day that Office 12 ships, I'll be able to tell you a lot about the new
So here's what I've learned from reading recent press reports about
Microsoft's plans for Office 12:
- Office 12 now is scheduled to be shipped in the second half of 2006.
This is roughly the same time that Longhorn (the next version of Windows) is
scheduled to ship. Office 12 will work with both old and new versions of
Windows, of course.
- According to Bloomberg News, Microsoft is adding features to
revive sales growth in Office, the company's second-largest division. The article
said that sales of Office rose 3.7 percent through nine months of the
current fiscal year, slowing from 17 percent last year.
"There have to be some very considerable changes to get people to upgrade,"
Jim Murphy, an analyst at AMR Research Inc., told Bloomberg.
- Most articles I've seen about the announcement say that Excel 12 will
allow users to create real-time dashboards and scorecards using spreadsheet
This statement puzzled me at first, because Excel already can do exactly
dashboards at ExcelUser
demonstrate. I finally decided that Bill was suggesting at least two new features.
First, Excel 12 probably will include gauges, because
we can't have a real dashboard without
gauges. Second, we'll have improved ways for Excel to interact with data
in real time, as the following item suggests.
- Microsoft is working on a
reporting server for Office, code-named Maestro. The product will
deliver real-time data from a variety of back-office products, including SQL
Server, Siebel, PeopleSoft, SAP, and, presumably, Microsoft's own ERPs like
Great Plains, Solomon, and Navision.
Computerworld reports that Maestro has begun beta testing. But
BizIntelligencePipeline.com says the beta won't begin until this Summer.
Excel will continue to improve support for XML (Extensible Markup
Language), which should make it easier to flow company data into
spreadsheets. This will allow your General Ledger to feed data into Excel
and other Office products. Last month
Microsoft announced a joint product
with SAP to do exactly that.
However, depending on how these features are implemented, they could be less
useful than Excel users might hope. If the features allow us merely to fill
our spreadsheets with raw data, we won't gain much. But if the features
allow us to enter formulas in cells -- formulas that return data at any
level of summary -- then the new features could reduce Spreadsheet Hell
- Excel 12 will have tools to help companies meet regulatory compliance and
reporting standards. This wording obviously is in response to the
Sarbanes Oxley Act in the US. I must admit, however, that I have no idea what tools
that statement suggests.
Perhaps Excel will offer improved spreadsheet-auditing and error-finding
tools. If so, this should be good news for all Excel users, and not just for
those who work for public companies traded on a US exchange.
- Excel will be able to send
dashboards directly to SharePoint portals.
SharePoint is a collection of services for Windows 2003 that you can use to
create team-oriented Web sites to share information.
- This is more speculative, but it's too intriguing to pass up...
Most of Bill Gates' speech to the CEOs was about Microsoft's
planned advances in search
technology. What if Excel 12 were to offer spreadsheet functions that
initiate searches and return information about the search results? These formulas would allow
Excel users to perform complex searches, to track their company's
search-engine positioning, to monitor the popularity of certain search
terms, and so on...all with spreadsheet formulas.
CBRonline.com quoted a Microsoft VP as saying that one of the general
areas that customers have identified as an important need for Office is
knowledge discovery and insight. Hmmm.....