Taking spreadsheets to the next level
What is Egeria Spreadsheets?
Egeria Spreadsheets is a collaborative multidimensional web-based spreadsheet service.
It is designed to simplify creation and maintenance of large worksheets with complex calculations.
Egeria can be used to quickly implement a wide range of planning, budgeting or reporting solutions, create financial models and perform what-if simulations.
Why another spreadsheet application?
I am working as an IT contractor (software development) for almost 10 years now.
It mostly involves creating custom applications for non-techies (people from controlling, marketing, finance and so on) who work for large companies.
Here are some observations I did so far:
- Spreadsheet is the most used (sometimes overused) tool among the non technical people
- Some of the projects I did were literally: We have a bunch of very complex spreadsheets here and we cannot maintain them any more.
Could you please make a web application with the same functionality.
- Spreadsheets are preferred over custom applications when the requirements are changing very quickly:
sometimes people from controlling or marketing departments cannot wait the 4-8 weeks till their IT department implements a change request.
Copy-pasting spreadsheet formulas is often faster than overcoming bureaucracy in an enterprise environment.
Here are the goals behind the Egeria system:
- allow large and complex spreadsheets to remain maintainable
- the majority of people familiar with a traditional spreadsheet application should ideally be able to use it without special training
Key differences to traditional spreadsheets
- Multidimensional data model: worksheets are organized by business entities (SKUs, departments, years, months, scenarios and so on).
The data is stored in a more structured way which has many benefits like simple and robust computations across multiple worksheets.
- Robust formulas: while Egeria's formulas are very similar to the formulas from common spreadsheet applications, there are two major differences:
- The cell reference syntax is a bit more complex to make computations along multiple dimensions possible
- Formulas cannot be copied. Instead one defines an 'area of effect' for each formula.
With a properly defined area of effect a formula will still function correctly when new dimension elements (or new dimensions) are added.
- A restriction on text cells: Only header cells (light blue cells at the beginning of each row/column) can contain text.
All the other cells are numeric by default (but can also be formatted as checkboxes, dates/time values or list of options/dropdowns).
This restriction is a certain enforced guideline on how multidimensional spreadsheets should be organized.
- Web application: a single document can be viewed and edited by hundreds of users simultaneously
Key differences to OLAP-based business planning software
There are several products for enterprise planning and budgeting with a multidimensional data model. Egeria is different in the following ways:
- Egeria is not specialized for a certain task (like budgeting). It is more of a spreadsheet with a multidimensional data model.
- Egeria should be easier to use for people familiar with traditional spreadsheet applications.