October 2016

Spreadsheets can be used as a glorified “boss button,” or they can be a catalyst for organizational growth.

There are probably few closet CFOs in some organizations — those who secretly believe they could do a better job of taking financial information and other data to guide corporate strategy. Then there are the closet Excel users, who are different breed entirely.

At one end of the spectrum are those who make use of Crash Planning, from a firm called Can’t You See I’m Busy. The Daily Dot recently listed Crash Planning in first place among apps that allow you to waste time at work without it being obvious to higher-ups.

“Crash Planning is disguised as an Excel spreadsheet. You swap coloured planning blocks to make three or more combinations,” the story said. “If anyone (such as your boss) comes up behind you, you can hit the spacebar. This will pause “Crash Planning” and turn it into a blank spreadsheet. Very stealthy.”

Maybe, but why not use real spreadsheets to do something useful — like Jack Busch does, for instance. Busch published a piece on GPost that goes into depth about Excel’s VLookup function, which he says helps him look really smart among his peers. Surprisingly, though, Busch writes that he likes to weave an air of mystery around his spreadsheet prowess:

“If you work in an office doing menial number crunching on huge amounts of data, the biggest secret to success is becoming adept at Excel and not telling anyone. It’s what I do. Someone comes to my desk and says: “Hey, sorry to do this to you, but could you go through 2,000 rows of poorly formatted data and tell me which ones have been requisitioned but not shipped? I know it’s short notice, but could you have it done by Friday?” I act like it’s a huge pain, then I whip up an Excel formula that does it in five minutes by Monday afternoon then play Tetris until Friday.”

This may not be entirely true, because Busch goes to great lengths to walk through how Vlookup has made a substantial difference in his ability to work with formulas and functions. It’s the kind of tribute to Excel that deserves to be shared widely, and not just by finance departments.

Instead of using phony spreadsheets to goof off or using real Excel features to look like a guru, there’s a third option: use the technology to contribute to meaningful organizational change. There’s a lot more you can pair with Excel to do this, and when you do, you’ll want to do it in plain sight, because everyone will benefit.

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A FASB standard known as CECL is putting pressure on financial services firms, but those with spreadsheet skills are ready for the challenge.

There are probably those in banking who dread the forthcoming Current Expected Credit Loss standard, and those who are leaning into it. Guess who will most likely achieve compliance faster and more easily? Continue reading Why The Next Big Banking Regulation Is Putting Excel In the Spotlight

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Finally, some of the true spreadsheet champions are starting to speak up.

If it sometimes feels as though spreadsheets are on trial — based on the voices unsuccessfully attempting to persuade finance pros to ditch Excel for something more complicated and expensive — you couldn’t ask for a better character witness than Alexandra Samuel.

The author of Sharing Is The New Buying, among other books, Samuel is not only one of many who have stuck with spreadsheets for years, but is passionate about paying it forward with ideas on how others could make use of them. In “An Ode To The Underappreciated Spreadsheet” on the Harvard Business Review, Samuel notes that tools like Excel have often gotten a “raw deal” because people sometimes see them as limited in functionality. Continue reading To (Really) Know Excel Is To Love Excel

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