(image by Craig Moulding)
I don't think we have a single client who has NOT asked us for an Excel export of some portion of their data. But Excel is not the answer for every request.
A story behind the request
The problem with Excel exports, is that there is a story behind the request. No one wants data in Excel; they have a specific need and Excel is the tool they are familiar with. Be it reporting, gathering a mailing list, or storing a back-up, Excel is often the tool when the platform does not support the use case.
Why do you want to export this set of data? What are you going to do with it? What do you want to know? We can only apply our expertise fully when the client shares their problems, needs, and opportunities with us. Writing software for the long term is as much about writing good software as it is about writing the right software.
How well does it match the actual problem?
But think of it in terms of bang-for-buck. How long does it take us to figure out exactly what the client needs? How long does it take us to create a feature for that need? How well does our solution match the actual problem? Do we, and does the client, understand the problem enough? Is the business process mature enough for automation, or is the client perhaps still discovering their needs?
Sometimes the answer to these (and many other) questions leads us to create beautiful push-dashboards that give the client everything the need.
Sometimes we decide to eliminate an entire processes and do things completely differently to meet a certain need.
Sometimes the answer is Excel
Sometimes the answer is not to build a specific feature. Sometimes it's not worth the time and money. Sometimes it's not clear enough what solutions we can achieve in a sprint. Sometimes the business process is so immature that discovery-oriented reporting is exactly what the client needs. And the best tool for that job, in collaboration between the client and us, is still Excel.