Integration via Spreadsheet?


In many ways, businesses use Excel as an edge node in the graph of integration pathways. Data comes in to your spreadsheet, is folded, mutilated and spindled, and turned into a table or chart you can put into your slide deck.

We all know Excel and its competitors can do more than that, but for all the reasons I've described previously, few businesses choose to go that way. It's too easy to change a spreadsheet - it's one big sandbox for playing with data! So businesses lock things down with custom software or integration tools.

If we had a repository that tracked and provided "adult supervision" for spreadsheets, could we use spreadsheets closer to the middle of the integration graph? Could we trust some spreadsheets as tools to provide some visibility into the guts of your data as it moves through your business? Instead of being stuck in a database that only a DBA "Wizard" can peer into, would it be helpful to be able to see data as it is being transformed?

Excel and others are pretty good at subscribing to data feeds (using ODBC or other connectivity, or through CSV file imports). Part of North Creek's technology stack is Apache POI, which is a library that takes apart a spreadsheet like a chicken, allowing me to see its guts and play with each individual cell. CXL was envisioned as a repository with intelligence, allowing businesses to trust that their spreadsheets were not being changed and distributed without the document owner's knowledge. What if there was the ability to put data feeds into CXL, not just spreadsheets?

I am not planning on re-inventing any wheels. I would embed Mule as a front end and require some configuration on your part to set up the data feeds. But any data source can be expressed as an html page (I am using jmesa for now) or as a spreadsheet table. This could be interesting.

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Categories: Business , Methodology , Software