Prodiance ups the ante

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Prodiance is one the leading vendors in the spreadsheet management market and, in its last couple of releases, it has added significant new functionality.

To begin with there was eDiscovery, which came out in its last release, around Christmas time. This is fundamental to good spreadsheet management because it enables the discovery of spreadsheets (and other end user computing resources such as Access databases) automatically. Moreover, it doesn’t just discover them when they are stored with a standard extension but also if they have no extension, are in zip files or even if they have been renamed as something else. This is important because spreadsheets are often used for fraudulent purposes. Typically, eDiscovery is run on a scheduled basis so that you can discover new spreadsheets that have been created.

The second element of eDiscovery is the calculation of risk associated with the discovered spreadsheets. This is done with two sets of metrics. One is technical: how large is the spreadsheet, how many formulae does it contain, how many links has it to other spreadsheets, how many hidden, very hidden (that is, hidden by program) and invisible cells does it have and so on? In other words, how complex is the spreadsheet and, therefore, how likely is it to contain errors? Secondly, there is the assessment of risk to the business. That is, how significant is this spreadsheet? Here, you define terms of importance that you want to look for, such as spreadsheets with the term ‘profit’ in them or ‘earnings per share’, or those containing credit card information or exceeding certain currency limits.

Once you know what spreadsheets you have got and assigned a risk score to each of them then, of course, you can prioritise the management of those spreadsheets that pose the most danger to the business.

Anyway, that was the company’s previous release. In its latest release, version 5.3, the company has added a new executive dashboard, significantly enhanced role-based security (as an add-in to Excel so that you can restrict access, by role, to various capabilities right down to the macro or cell level), a much improved spreadsheet comparison capability, support for foreign languages, performance enhancements, new high availability functionality and new portal capabilities.

The portal developments are significant. You can, in fact, run with Prodiance’s own portal or Microsoft SharePoint or a third party (for example, SAP) portal because everything is built using web parts (with drill-down). In particular, the portal includes workflow capability (with task lists for approval tracking in the development and publishing of new spreadsheets) and report publishing. In the latter case, reports can be generated in either HTML, XML or pdf formats, or you can use Microsoft SQL Reporting Services. These can be scheduled as required and delivered via email as necessary.

The new spreadsheet comparison capabilities are probably the best I have seen from any vendor. The graphical representation is clear and it supports comparisons both between versions of a spreadsheet and different spreadsheets. The view is colour coded with the option to turn off original colours that may be in the spreadsheets themselves. There is automatic row alignment, you can compare macros, statistics are automatically generated and, of course, there is automated recognition of formula, data, macro, text and anything else changes.

Prodiance has always been especially strong in its graphical and presentation capabilities and these have been enhanced in the latest release. Moreover, the company has also significantly extended and deepened its functionality, both in this release and its predecessor, re-confirming the company’s place as one of the leaders in the spreadsheet management market.