Today, it’s relatively fashionable to hate on the spreadsheet. It’s a piece of technology that has become so ubiquitous, with millions of people around the world tied to its columns, its rows, its (occasionally infuriating) formulas in their daily work, that it’s easy to forget just what a marvel it really is.
Even though we see them everywhere, remember that people were waiting for someone to invent the spreadsheet for centuries, even if they didn’t fully realize it. Ever since Luca Pacioli first detailed double-entry bookkeeping in his 1494 work Summa, generations of number-crunchers were dreaming of a day when they wouldn’t have to keep calculating and recalculating the data that kept their businesses running.
But just like it took a long time to go from Donatello to Dalí and from Beethoven to Black Sabbath, it took a long time before the first spreadsheet software came onto the market: Visicalc, a “magic sheet of electronic paper that can perform calculations and recalculations” came onto the market less than 50 years ago, in 1979.
The wait was worth it, though. As the plaque installed at Harvard Business School in praise of its inventor, Dan Bricklin, put it, that first spreadsheet program “forever changed how people use computers in business”.
Visicalc and other early competitors were soon followed by the king of spreadsheets, Microsoft’s Excel (originally written for Apple’s Macintosh!). After the introduction of the first Windows OS in 1987, there was no stopping it. Spreadsheets became one of the first pieces of digital technology that really did “eat the world”. Today, the best estimates are that over 80% of businesses and 2B people regularly use spreadsheet technologies, whether Excel, Google Sheets, or any number of new variations developed by startups.
Given that spreadsheets have become so common, we often don’t even really notice them. And if we don’t notice something, we don’t think about how it could do even more for us. But the spreadsheet’s ability to save and manipulate data means that there are lots of new functions that could potentially grow out of them.
One specific avenue for spreadsheet growth can be found in the rise of the no-code movement, which is able to give even more power to spreadsheets. Because spreadsheets are so good at organizing information, when presented with the right commands they can be used as the basis for new ways of displaying that information — like, say, on a fully functional e-commerce site. (Yes, I’m talking about OrderCast here ;)
Imagine it: you can have a spreadsheet where each row of data corresponds to every item in your shop — name, description, SKU, price, current inventory level, etc. OrderCast then uses that information to create an e-shop that can be automatically updated via the spreadsheet. It’s a win-win — customers can easily place and track orders, shop owners can quickly add or remove particular items while also opening up new markets thanks to an expanded online reach.
So yeah, we love the spreadsheet — and we can’t wait to see where it takes us next 😉
OrderCast provides wholesalers with a turnkey ordering solution that converts their catalog into an e-commerce storefront letting customers browse, order, pay, and track their shipment online. Designed to be fully compatible with wholesalers’ existing back-office solutions, OrderCast can get your online shop up and running in a matter of days, if not hours. Get in touch to schedule a demo here.