Microsoft Excel may be the household name when it comes to spreadsheets, but it is simply not cut out for collaboration.

That is according to Adaptive Planning A/NZ managing director, Jeremy Bolton, who said Excel has a tendency to run into "a myriad of problems" when it is used collaboratively.

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"On one hand the world loves Excel, and it is a great personal productivity tool and desktop application," he said.

"However, it is a miserable collaborative, dynamic application."

When multiple users are involved, potentially with different disparate geographies, and rely on a process that needs integrity of information and an audit trail of where things have gone, Bolton said Excel begins to "introduce way too many problems."

"While Excel may be valuable for someone who sits at my desk and works individually, the experience changes once people collaborate across the organisation and put some controlled processes in place," he said.

The result is that users can run into to a lot of errors, broken links and formulas in the wrong version.

"Historically people have turned to the legacy players, such as Hyperion, Cognos, and Business Objects, and now SAP, Oracle, and IBM," Bolton said.

"While they provided a powerful solution to the Excel problem, it also made it complicated, very difficult to manage and maintain, long implementation times, and cost a lot."

Best of both worlds

Bolton said in many cases he found that companies had legacy systems where a lot of money has been spent but people had stopped using it.

"I talked to numerous Hyperion customers, and in the back-end everyone has started to use Excel again," he said.

"They upload data to Hyperion where it acts as a quasi consolidation engine."

By doing so, Bolton said they have "sort of missed the point" of having the set-up in the first place.

The discussion then becomes about solving a problem between how to harness the power of a product such as Hyperion with the ease of use and comfort and familiarity of an Excel type of an interface.

"That is what we have come at with Adaptive Planning, a design philosphy that says use of use to solve powerful, sophisticated problems in a web based collaborative environment that is available anywhere," Bolton said.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.