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Spreadsheet Abuse

You have a lot of information you need to track and share with others. This information will have various attributes you will want to be able to sort and filter on. Perhaps you’re keeping up with issues on your project, enhancement requests for your application, or the requirements for your next project. What do you do?

The answer I frequently see is “Put the information in a spreadsheet and pass it around.” The problem then becomes larger. Different people or groups want to add different attributes to the information and update that information independently. What do they do? This answer “Duplicate the common information and add new fields for my attributes.”

I’ve seen this frequently–multiple spreadsheets which contain common core data and different additional columns or attributes. Or, spreadsheets that are so massive a human can’t comprehend them. I recently saw a very intelligent person reject a very detailed, well-thought-out set of requirements because the information was stored in a spreadsheet that was too dense for expedient human consumption.

My own personal term for this solution to the problem is “Spreadsheet Abuse.” Spreadsheets are not databases. Issue tracking systems, defect/enhancement tracking systems, and requirements management systems may take a bit of work on the front end to set up, but are well worth the advantages. Anthony C. addressed issue tracking in an earlier post, Issue Tracking for Requirements. We’ll explore requirements systems in a future post.

In the mean time, let’s stop the spreadsheet abuse!

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