“Can you beat the sheet?” by Sol Zlotchenko

27Apr10

Being from the software industry does, sometimes, spark interesting conversations at parties, but most of them recently have revolved around the next “killer” iPhone application or the next gadget that will “revolutionize” our households. There are occasions, however, that discussions move into something that is intriguing and thought-provoking. Recently I was asked the following question: “What is the most successful business application ever created?” This question really piqued my interest but I didn’t have to think for too long, I quickly answered that there is no contest, and that Microsoft Excel should, hands down, win an Oscar in this category. This opinion was debated a little. Microsoft Outlook, a few different browsers, Google, various word processors, and even a plain old database were mentioned, but in the end everyone quickly agreed that Excel is indeed the king.

The reason why I had such a quick response to the question is because we compete with Excel on a daily basis. Besides being the most successful business application of all time, it is an ultimate standard for usability and value-add for any software product in the financial industry. I cannot count how many times over the years that we have walked into a company to sell our products only to be met with the same basic objection: “I have this spreadsheet that I’ve used for the past 15 years.  It is my whole world and I can’t live without it. ” In other words the sale very often came down to one simple question “Can you beat the sheet?”

What’s interesting is that recently we are finding more and more firms that understand the danger of being completely dependent on spreadsheets and are now actively looking for alternatives. To me this is unprecedented because traditionally I have found myself swimming upstream trying to explain the downside of running a business on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. This change in mindset has resulted in the central question shifting from “Can you beat the sheet?” to “How can you beat the sheet?” The addition of this one word “How” – to the question appears to be the result of the intensifying drumbeat from investors, regulators and, indeed the general public, demanding greater hedge fund transparency and accountability.    Hedge funds have finally realized that Excel spreadsheets cannot lead the way in the enterprise.

As I think about the sheet more and more, I realize that my own opinion has changed and become more nuanced over the years.  In fact I would now argue that it is not possible to completely replace the sheet.  In some ways we should follow the old adage — “if you can’t beat them join them”.  We all must come to terms with the fact that Excel will always be part of the enterprise’s infrastructure.  The real change must be that mission critical functions can no longer be dependent on Excel.  Buy-side firm must now listen to outside forces and remove Excel from where it is not suitable.  Software vendors on the other hand must build solutions that not only can take over these mission critical tasks but that can also co-exist with Excel.

Sol Zlotchenko joined Paladyne in July 2005 as the CTO. He is responsible for all aspects of technology operations including development and product management for the complete suite of Paladyne products. He manages both local and overseas development teams and has played a key role in building Paladyne’s ASP service offering. Prior to Paladyne Mr. Zlotchenko was the Head of Development at Alexandra Investment Management, a multi-billion dollar, multi-strategy hedge fund. During his tenure at Alexandra Investment Management, Mr. Zlotchenko guided the company through tremendous growth, investment strategy diversification, and explosive technology infrastructure development. Moreover, he led development of numerous proprietary applications and third-party integration products covering trading, risk management, operations, accounting, and investor relations.  Mr. Zlotchenko has extensive experience in financial services industry including a position at Goldman Sachs where he worked in various roles across multiple technology divisions. He received his BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering from Columbia University.

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One Response to ““Can you beat the sheet?” by Sol Zlotchenko”


  1. 1 Paladyne in the news - jNet

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