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Depends. At my old job, they had a ton of spreadsheets in accounting. Most of them required manual data entry of stuff that we had in the database. Most spreadsheets took 1 ~ 2 days of manual data entry by a single person... per month! Even more when it was time to close a year or a quarter.

Needless to say, when upper management turned over a bit, there was a big push to get rid of all of this wasted time. (I know of at least one person from Accounting that quit because of the mandatory evenings and weekends just to get necessary things done)

Not to mention the addition of complex rules with little to no documentation. Sometimes these spreadsheets are created by someone who knows Excel macros, then they move on, leaving others that don't know anything about it to run it. Maybe new requirements come down, and they poke around it at it to make it seem like things are ok, but they miss an edge case... etc. Not that this doesn't happen in the programming world too, but in the programming world we try to tackle these issues as part of honing our craft. In (e.g.) the accounting world, it's just a necessary evil to get done and over with.

Strange... Excel talks to everything, couldn't they use ODBC, or at least NSLOOKUP from an imported report? Rarely a reason to manually re-enter, even with Excel.

> Rarely a reason to manually re-enter, even with Excel.

I wish it was so. People using excel can get very — ahem — creative, of which I've encountered many a spreadsheet designed by some minion of hell, including (but not limited to):

- a GIS implemented with cells, one cell per bitmap image block, and excel vector drawing features, with atrocious macros doing things

- an insurance broker contract and customer database, whose records were separated by fuzzy formatting (like cell border colors and width), full of varying labels (typos and inconsistencies), and without specific cell placement for data, notably would-be primary keys.

Every single one of them should be locked down in a digital safe, guarded night and day, only to serve as last-stand honeypot tactical weaponry on sufficiently smart cyberwar adversaries, who, once spoiled by the guarding words of "Abandon all sanity, ye who enter here", would quickly have their mind cower in fear back into reptilian neurologic territory[0]. The Snow Crash noise was probably one of those file's raw data.

[0]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Funniest_Joke_in_the_World

I wish I could upvote this more times.

Except the people managing these spreadsheets where not programmers and had probably never heard of ODBC. People outside the process generally suggest a rewrite over trying to maintain Excel spreadsheets which is generally a bad idea.

1. Accounting people were non-programmers, so they probably didn't know what ODBC was/is.

2. Rewriting them found errors in the Excel spreadsheets in some cases.

3. They weren't a Microsoft shop, so most/all of the experience was with an Open Source stack.

4. Most of the functionality was implemented as a series of views in the database, with a layer of reports on top of it.

5. It was easier to just pull them into our existing system as additional reports, and just have an option to export the report to Excel (which was already baked in functionality).

You would need to add a new user account for the database from the dba who is in another department. Something like that would require communicating with your manager who, as retric says, is non technical and probably won't buy in.

An opportunity presents itself to plug a product I helped write version 0.1 of: http://www.glbsoft.com

If your users spend all their time in Excel, why not connect it to the enterprise back end?

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