Using simulations as a medium of learning and planning has been gaining widespread acceptance in several organizations. Companies investing in simulations have access to a variety of choices in terms of technology. High-end technologies) are not the only choices in contrast, spreadsheet software provides a better medium for customizable simulations. Based on Tata Interactive Systems’ (TIS) experience of developing simulations, we posit that most customizable standalone simulations developed in spreadsheet software offer the advantages of lower costs, reduced development timeline, flexibility in experimentation, and elegant Graphical User Interface (GUI). Software such as MS Excel® is globally used for number crunching and analysis due to its ease of use, hassle-free installation, and management. Most customizable standalone simulations developed in spreadsheet software offer the advantages of:
1.Reduced development timeline MS Excel® eliminates the need to create complex scratch up structures as needed in other technologies. Model structures and frameworks can be easily and rapidly built on top of the default features making it a logical choice for many experts who choose to create simulation models. These advantages over other technologies provide MS Excel® an edge that results in reduced development timeline.
2.Lower Costs Given the reduction in timeline, benefits of symmetric and streamlined communication, and use of experimented or readily available models in MS Excel® format, the cost of developing a simulation reduces. This makes it economical to invest in simulations for a variety of purposes. It provides additional leverage to think of other avenues for learning rather than reducing project scope and/or diluting business requirements.
3.Experimentation Flexibility MS Excel® is widely used by SMEs and analysts as a tool to quickly translate ideas into models. In fact, due to its pervasive use some parts of a model may be already available to SMEs and can be plugged in directly into a simulation with minor changes. Its flexibility generates avenues to validate untested ideas that can be rapidly adapted into the final solution with comparatively reduced rework and changes.
4.Elegant Graphical User Interface (GUI) MS Excel® can easily provide aesthetically appealing look and feel such as layouts, drop-down selections, link based pages, graphs, or checkboxes etc. These are either natively available or can be created.
5.Team Synergies Simulation development requires Subject Matter Experts (SME) to transfer domain knowledge to math-modelers who then translate the language of the expert into the language of variables. This combination keeps the team lean and agile. With the added advantage of familiarity with MS Excel® and modelling methodologies, communication is streamlined and output maximized. In contrast, using other technologies complicates the knowledge transfer process by adding a team of technical specialists including programmers, graphic designers, and software architects. Reduced communication layers along with use of MS Excel® increases team synergy thereby allowing rapid implementation while avoiding the need to translate the requirement to another technology. It is with no doubt that spreadsheet simulations can address functional requirements for creating various types of simulation in order to meet their training and planning requirements. These simulations make no compromises either on look and feel or the mathematics of the model and are simultaneously cost effective.
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