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Research Article Open Access

An Innovative Spreadsheet Authoring Environment

Abstract

Spreadsheets are problematic components in enterprise information systems, due to reliability and other problems. The root problem is that the greatest strength of spreadsheets – enabling authors to work with visual layouts of models instead of program code – is a double-edged sword, especially in more complex applications. Spreadsheets are simple in the sense that the set of primitive operations is small; yet they are not simple in the sense of having a sufficiently rich set of primitives for building complex models. What is needed in spreadsheet land is a new synthesis of visual layout and program structures that preserves the virtues of spreadsheets while introducing the missing structures – time series, dimensions, variables, data types – in a way that does not render business analysts dependent on programmers, as BI and ERP systems often do. This paper compares these design criteria against the new ModelSheet authoring environment, which is based on a new symbiosis of visual layout and program structures. ModelSheet retains the key strengths of spreadsheets – supporting decentralized innovation by domain experts who may not be programmers – while it improves model reliability, model expressiveness, team collaboration, and modeler productivity.

Richard J. Petti, Howard I. Cannon

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