Microsoft Excel spreadsheet Pivot Table ninjas take notice, I recently heard from the people behind Chartcube, a new free iPad app promising a new way to see and share spreadsheet data. The company includes veterans from Prezi and Evernote, and their sensibilities show through in the app.
Democratizing spreadsheet data so middle managers and their managers can use it for actionable business information has been a challenge since the dawn of the PC spreadsheet. Chartcube transforms spreadsheet data into a visual and interactive "cube" with just a few taps. This shows an example of a Chartcube:
When I was first pitched Chartcube, my initial thoughts were that it might be a Roambi competitor. However, Pankaj Tibrewal, CEO and co-founder of Chartcube told me that the company sees Microsoft Office as a competitor. I had to step back from that a moment and remembered a former colleague of mine, a trainer, he was the only person on the contract who could create Excel Pivot Tables. As the contract went on, he began to do far more Pivot Tables than classroom training much to his frustration and contributing to his eventual resignation.
Chartcube was created exclusively as a mobile-first, multi-touch experience for the iPad. Chartcube empowers you to spend more time understanding your data and less time fighting Microsoft Excel. Chartcube imports data in standard Excel (.xls and .xlsx) spreadsheets.
Chartcube has a real opportunity her to transform what can be an irksome task in data intensive businesses and government organizations.
Creating a new Chartcube
Tap New Chartcube and then select either Dropbox or "Open In from" Mail as the source. The import process includes one of the best-documented iPad or mobile app job aid I've seen in recent memory. Even if you only open up a spreadsheet because your boss sent it to you, you can import the data into Chartcube. This explains how to set your Excel spreadsheet for Chartcube:
Interacting with data in Chartcube
Your spreadsheet data renders in a cube. You can pivot the data simply by rotating the Chartcube. No programming involved! Just double tap to drill down into a value to view more details about the data. This shows an example of the data you can view when drilling down into a Chartcube:
Early on, I came to see the usability of the iPad for data visualization after writing about mobile business intelligence apps like Roambi and Good Data. Chartcube opens up similar visualization opportunities for businesses that capture and track data in Excel.
Let's not forget the Export to Excel feature in Salesforce and cloud BI platforms. Just put make that export spreadsheet available in Dropbox or via email and you can pull that into Chartcube as well.
Reviewing, sharing, and discussing Chartcube data
Chartcube is aiming to start a new evolution of data sharing amongst middle managers and knowledge workers. The current iteration of the app has simple yet elegant sharing and the threaded discussions are going to be familiar to even more novice users.
When sharing a Chartcube with other users, they can add comments comments directly on interesting charts. The discussion takes place entirely within the security of Chartcube.
Two minor nitpicks I have with Chartcube are it needs some further development around the login. While you don't have to login to use the app, it appears necessary for the sharing and discussion features. Second, I'd like to see an editable user profile in the app. I "fat fingered" my user name while I was setting up a test account and couldn't find a way to revise my username within the app. Both are minor issues really, especially since this is only the first version of Chartcube.
Chartcube and the future
Tibrewal told me during a call that the company is exploring a freemium business model. More data connectors, Apple extensions support, application programming interface (API) improvements, amongst other improvements and an Enterprise version are in the future plans according to Tibrewal.
I'm sometimes hesitant to get in on the early stage of a mobile app, but Chartcube impressed me as an app and their vision resolves some of the spreadsheet issues I've seen along the way as a contract technical writer.
The Evernote and Prezi influences are all through this app making it an ideal choice for non-spreadsheet users to analyze spreadsheet data. It's one thing to launch with the mission to help business users unlock business data, it's another thing to be able to execute on that promise. Chartcube shows they can execute even at this early stage. I expect this team to do big things in 2015.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.