Expert Analysis: Updating Real Estate Docs Is More Important Than Ever. By Peter Wilson – 04/21/2020. Get great content like this right in your inbox.

How vulnerable is Microsoft Excel over the next 3-4 years? Will customers start ripping it out in favor of alternatives?

Excel is one of Microsoft’s crown jewels.  As a thought experiment, what would you do if you were Microsoft’s CEO to ensure Excel continues to dominate?

First, Microsoft needs to invest more in its cloud applications.  Excel 365 is a good application but it is a lot harder to use than Google spreadsheets.  It takes more clicks and there is a weird distinction between edit mode and view mode that makes things confusing and can result in unsaved work.

But that’s the obvious stuff — table-stakes for any application.   How could Microsoft ensure Excel’s dominance for the next 10 years? Here are some out-of-the-box ideas:

Data marketplace

There are a lot of great datasets that currently stored in Excel.  Microsoft could create a marketplace where anyone who owns data could sell into the marketplace.

For instance, let’s say you want to evaluate last 18 months of real estate transactions in Miami — you should be able to easily get that data and buy it and bring it into your excel doc super seamlessly.

Imagine every dataset under a million rows available with one click in excel.  And yes, some of it is available to buy today, but it is really hard to find, comes in weird formats, and then you have to take the time to import it to your worksheet.  The data you need should just immediately appear right in the doc you are working on.  Or, better yet, the data should be just in the background and you can get what you need or run operations on it directly from Excel.

We’ll start to see data co-ops emerge where you can get access to a pooled dataset if you contribute your data.  And from the data we’ll see a ton of awesome new products.

Application marketplace

Excel is an OS. It is awesomely powerful. And users should be able to buy niche applications that pull in outside data, run interesting formulas, and more.  And yes, I have heard that excel has some sort of application store, but I have never actually met someone that bought from it. Excel should see what users are doing and suggest applications (free and paid) that would help them move faster or create deeper analysis.

For instance, if you are evaluating a bunch of public stocks, there could be a simple application that pulls in real-time stock quotes and updates other information like revenues, profits, debt, etc. as the data comes in.

Or if you are VC and evaluating private companies in Excel, there should be an app (by LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Mattermark, etc.) that updates information about the company (like # of employees, office address, etc.)

Formula marketplace

Any cool formula should be able to be sold.  You might design a simple formula for splitting the company name from an email address and sell that formula in the marketplace.

People marketplace

One time I built a pretty extensive pivot table.  It took me forever (like over 15 hours) to do and then it ended up having some bugs and it did not work.  (caveat: I am definitely NOT an Excel power user).  Then I showed the problem to a friend and he got everything done from scratch in under 30 minutes.

Excel should offer a marketplace of vetted experts where I can get real-time help.  People from all over the world can help model data if there was a safe, trusted, environment provided by Excel.

This should be for a core business use or to write a linear program to optimized seating at your wedding.  Either way, getting help would be tremendously useful.

Excel is amazing — but if they do not innovate, they will be disrupted

Microsoft has an opportunity to make Excel itself a $200 billion market-cap company. To do that, it needs to stay away from hard-to-use communities and focus on building tools that can allow people to get work done faster.

Of course, if a company like Google wanted to compete with Excel, they could pull from this playbook as well.