Having Excel skills is like winning the jackpot in the lottery. When other people find out what you’ve got, they come out of the woodwork and ask for your help. Ira Iosebasshvili’s article on Excel skills is a pretty funny take (to me at least) on the reality of people knowing that you have a skill they don’t have, whether it be Excel, or how to set up a wifi network.
If you’re one of those people who has built up a base of useful technical knowledge, that first paragraph of the article pretty much sums things up:
“People would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I hear you’re the Excel guy,’ ” said the 37-year-old metrics consultant from Oak Brook, Ill. Mr. Kalelkar said he has become “a little more passive-aggressive,” warning help-seekers, “Don’t come to me, go to Google first.”
Which, of course, reminds me of one of my favorite XKCD comics of all time:
Now having said all of that, let me go on the record as saying that in my books, Excel is one of the most important and useful applications that has ever been made. I spent a year or so at a client writing Excel VBA scripts to make it do some absolutely crazy stuff, and it was a blast. With the right skills, you can do anything with Excel, including making beautiful art or even a game.
Even now, I see vanilla Excel (vanilla as in no add-ins, macros or scripts) as the ideal business intelligence analysis tool. And admittedly, that was part of my motivation for writing Knodeo Extrata.
I’ve seen a lot of people use Excel in all types of organizations, and there was generally one common thread. All the advanced Excel reporting and analysis was done with linked worksheets that were exported from some black box enterprise system. There’s no argument that it’s not the most efficient way of doing things, but there’s also no argument that it’s a very effective way of doing things, especially when you consider the fact that a lot of people know Excel and can usually find a way to coax Excel into doing what they want it to.
Just because there are better tools than Excel for doing something doesn’t mean people want to change their habits to accomplish that goal. Learning a new tool takes time (and money), and people are already busy with their everyday work. A lot of people just don’t want to get out of their comfort zone, and that’s just fine.
If I had my way, more companies would find ways of making solutions that line up with the existing skills and habits of their users. And when it comes to reporting and analysis, that means fitting in with how people use Microsoft Excel. As it relates to Knodeo Extrata, I just wanted people to be able to get their non-Excel data into an Excel file so they can create reports on them by simply linking the worksheets.