So it is 2011 and I find myself whipping out all sorts of queries and macros to take care of all my office automation needs, and I find it sort of funny given that many early days in consulting were spent falling asleep on an Access 2.0 book. I'm glad I have the skills to be sure, and they pay off in the form of being able to squeeze all the value out of content and data, yet at the same time I lament the unchanged state of office documents, office suites, and the way people handle them. I've come to understand that the core problem is really very simple and it goes like this:
The real value in information isn't in the information itself. It is in the relationships between information.
Word documents are a headache because you can't reuse content chunks and weave in data, and Word documents aren't reports. You can't spin lots of permutations without a whole lot of manual labor.
And Excel, the backbone of data handling for countless organizations. Who hasn't dealt with the endless challenges of stuffing all sorts of things into the column/row format only to format it heavily, turn it into a report, and then realize sorting and grouping and calculations don't work. Then there are the master works of all the people who formerly loved cell phone cases that would swivel horizontally on the belt clip. Yes, you know you are out there. Big sheets, lots of spot calculations, obscure references to lookups and values on other sheets. Touch one thing the wrong way, Indiana Jones, and poison darts fly at your head.
To all you young turks out there let me toss out the idea that the relationships are golden. Learn to love data, because it is really cool when liberated and not strapped down into a cell by 42 formatting attributes. Like I heard on a TED talk -- data is the soil in which this generation will grow ideas and innovate.
To all my colleagues who have loved their spreadsheets too long, well, let it go my friends. Just shoot Old Yeller in the head and let's move on.