ModelSheet: good in theory, needs more work

ModelSheet: good in theory, needs more work

Summary: Modelsheet is pitched as a product that is supposed to make the development of complex models much easier than the default 'Excel way.' In theory it removes a number of the steps necessary to ensure data accuracy and template integrity.

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Modelsheet is pitched as a product that is supposed to make the development of complex models much easier than the default 'Excel way.' In theory it removes a number of the steps necessary to ensure data accuracy and template integrity. However, there are usability issues that need urgent attention.

This is a saas service so I was surprised that it only works with Windows machines. While having to use Internet Explorer because of Firefox incompatibility, it crashed the browser twice. The user interface is not particularly friendly and it uses Times New Roman as a font face, which as far as I know, only the IMDB has successfully pulled off. Since Internet Explorer was crashing, I tried Firefox, with the IETab plugin, as this makes the software work in Firefox.

The software is bulky, buttons are abbreviated and at first glance it is difficult to understand what they do. There are inline frames with scrollbars. I was never quite certain where I was in the program and equally unclear as to what I was meant to be doing. Maybe it's because I'm 'just a kid' who knows Excel pretty well, but I'm happy with Excel. I know where things are, I know what they do, I know how to make pretty little pie-charts and 3D graphs. Any new product based on a spreadsheet metaphor is going to present challenges but this product should only be put in the hands of power users prepreaed to invest in learning the solution.

One bright spot is the version tracker. All too often, spreadsheets end up in a mess because someone messed up the template and it didn't get spotted until the next revision. With model sheet you can get back to the previous version to figure out the model inconsistency. Consider this feature a "shadow copy" of a spreadsheet - being able to go back and forth through edits and updates.

At this stage, I'm not sure Modelsheet makes life easier. After wrestling with it for 24 hours I found myself bemused. While the software is meant to make tasks like budgeting and forecasting easier, I found it too hard to understand without expending a significant effort. In today's consumery world, that's not going to stand up well to scrutiny. Today's users expect intuitive interfaces and right now, I don't see that. You can argue that serious software demands serioius attention but all the talk I hear is of intuitive working. After all, who has time?

I hoped the video introduction might help. But it was so dull, I found myself dreaming of an intensive tour of a cardboard box factory followed by pampering in a day long Chinese water torture experiment. In fairness, Modelsheet is at an early stage of development and I'm sure will improve over time. Right now however, I find it difficult to see how it will find its place in the world.

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, CXO, Collaboration, Software

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • ModelSheet: Good in theory, needs more work

    We appreciate the mention of our technology and completely agree with Dennis that the pre-beta software has many rough spots. When we introduced Dennis to ModelSheet, we emphasized that it is not ready for scrutiny as a commercial product (?Times New Roman font? ? ?at first glance it is difficult to understand what [the buttons] do?? the browser crashed ? only works in Internet Explorer ? and more). We do believe, however, that the technology is complete enough for innovative early adopters to evaluate the core ideas which include: separating spreadsheet layout from model logic; generating cell formulas from symbolic expressions; and providing support for easily editable time series (e.g., add a year to the model with a few clicks) and segmentation dimensions (e.g., expand the number of products from 5 to 10). The key issue is whether its innovative design will radically improve spreadsheet authoring when it is more polished.

    We welcome further criticism and comments from those who would like to evaluate it as a pre-beta prototype. (You can request a pre-beta user account on our website.)

    --Dick Petti, ModelSheet Software, LLC
    rjpetti