Sebastian Dewhurst, Director of Business DevelopmentMany businesses rely heavily on Microsoft Excel for reporting, data processing, analytics, and also for configuration, pricing, and quoting (CPQ) of products or services that are highly configurable. Excel is fast, inexpensive, and it is relatively easy to build algorithms and mathematical models into Excel-based tools.
However, Excel is designed as a desktop solution rather than an enterprise tool, and when complex spreadsheets, often with VBA and macros, are made accessible to multiple users within an organization, then spreadsheet chaos results:
How do you ensure proprietary algorithms and business processes in a spreadsheet are secure? How do you prevent multiple versions of spreadsheets proliferating within-and possibly outside-your company? How do you verify that only the current version of a spreadsheet is in use? How do you capture, report, and perform analytics on data generated by many users of many spreadsheets? How do you enable collaboration when several people might be involved in a spreadsheet-based process? How do you avoid incompatibility problems, which occur when an end-user is running a version of Excel for which the spreadsheet model has not been tested and validated? How do you enable end-users to access specific spreadsheets with mobile devices?
These complex problems demand a powerful yet flexible solution that can enable controlled access to spreadsheets by authorized users, but in a manner that prevents direct access to the spreadsheets themselves. EASA, a model deployment platform with an impressive track record helping Fortune 100 companies deploy all types of models, has been helping companies achieve precisely this by enabling them to publish secure web-based applications that use Excel models as “logic engines”. Effectively, EASA makes Excel spreadsheets behave like enterprise applications, accessible either over a corporate network (on premises), or alternatively in the cloud (EASA partners with AWS for this option).
How does EASA enable this transformation? “Our patented, codeless application building technology enables customers to simply select a spreadsheet which needs to be “appified”; EASA then automatically builds a web interface. Finally, EASA automatically connects the interface with a protected instance of the spreadsheet,” says Sebastian Dewhurst, Director of Business Development for EASA.
EASA enables complex spreadsheet tools to be deployed as enterprise web applications
With EASA’s zero coding requirement, businesses can build custom interfaces on top of their spreadsheets, giving users the ability to access spreadsheet models in a controlled manner. By preventing the master spreadsheets from being shared or emailed, EASA ensures security for intellectual property in the spreadsheets. Additionally, there is now an audit trail that allows administrators to track which version of a particular spreadsheet model was used for a specific task.
These web-based applications can also interact with databases, homegrown tools (e.g. in R code or Matlab format), and other enterprise software. A common use-case, for example, is to enable a CRM system such as Salesforce.com to launch a quoting tool, which is an Excel-based web app created with EASA. Customer data can be transferred from the CRM system automatically, and the resulting proposal can be saved back to the CRM system as an attached PDF. This avoids the time and cost associated with re-writing pricing logic in a dedicated CPQ tool, and preserves the flexibility and agility of Excel.
“EASA calls Excel and runs it natively–unlike other spreadsheet-to-web approaches employed by Microsoft and Google. This enables the support of sophisticated Excel tools which often have complex macros, add-ins and conditional VLOOKUPs,” says Dewhurst.
As the leader in the model deployment arena, EASA serves companies in financial services and insurance such as AIG, Amlin, and Zurich Financial, manufacturing companies such as GE, Procter & Gamble, and Hewlett- Packard, as well as other businesses with highly configurable services such as Ryder and LeasePlan.