Sorry for the pun up there, but I couldn’t help myself; it is actually a very accurate depiction of what Excel can do for your career and your business.
I’ve been working in the financial sector for over 10 years. During the course of my career I’ve managed to develop many skills, but Excel is the one skill I’ve expanded on drastically and it has catapulted (or “excel-erated”) my career into the fast lane. It’s safe to say that my understanding of Excel has been the major driving force in my career.
Turning Spreadsheets into Automated Dashboards & Workflows
I’ve worked as a contractor for many financial institutions and in financial roles in various sectors over the years. All of these roles have had the following two things in common:
- The consistent use of Excel to prepare reports, complete daily processes, perform analysis, and prepare data for my superiors.
- The common under-utilization of Excel’s capabilities at the vast majority of these organizations.
Many people just aren’t aware of how versatile and useful Excel actually is. Excel is generally categorized as a spreadsheet application, but there’s much more to it than that. There’s a plethora of formulas and functions that can be used to:
- Match data;
- Remove duplicates;
- Find unique values;
- Modify text strings;
- Perform logic based calculations;
- Statistical analysis;
- View data in dynamic and easily modifiable summary tables; and
- Take data output from one system and convert it to upload into another system.
The list literally goes on and on. To date I have yet to run into a problem or process I couldn’t solve or improve with Excel and its many capabilities. However, these formulas and functions barely scratch the surface of what Excel can really accomplish if used by someone who has the desire to push the limits, and dig a little deeper into such an amazing application.
Supercharge Excel with Visual Basic for Applications
Visual Basic for Applications (or VBA), is a programming language that is actually integrated into the entire Microsoft Office suite of applications. Anyone can access this, just open Excel (or Word, Outlook, Access –any Office Application) and hold down [ALT] and press [F11]. This will open a VBA editor, as well as the endless number of possibilities that come with any programming language. All you need is an understanding of logic, and either time to take a course on the topic, or time to teach yourself with the many free tutorials available online.
I know, the term “Programming Language” can seem rather intimidating, but if you were to give it a chance, try to learn a bit about it and the syntax, you would realize that it’s actually fairly similar to English or any other spoken language. It’s easy to use, provided you have the time and interest in learning it.
The Impact of Automating Processes with Excel
Throughout my career I’ve managed to have a profound impact on the processes and day-to-day activities performed by my colleagues and I. At one organization, I actually managed to automate approximately 90% of our day to day processes.
Ninety percent of our workload was automated thanks to Excel’s capabilities.
I was on a team of twelve people, and we were working as mutual fund accountants. Our workload required each of us to work about 65 hours per week to get our daily tasks completed after we took on a new big client. As I’m sure you can imagine, working 65 hours a week was very stressful, and as a result the team’s morale suffered a great deal, along with the work itself. Errors and corrections were an expected part of the job during this time.
I started by focusing on automating certain repetitive & tedious tasks that required a lot of manual intervention which often needed corrections due to keying errors. By using Excel and VBA I managed to take our manual processes and convert them to one-click solutions.
- Time to load the trades? –Just press this button, Excel will take care of the rest.
- It’s time to post fees? –Again, press this other button, Excel will handle it.
Before long, my colleagues started referring to me as “The Automator” in poor Austrian accents.
All jokes aside; automating our processes had major benefits, not the least of which was the virtual elimination of errors and their resulting corrections. Team morale was improved drastically, and we also experienced a significant reduction in our workload. We went from needing to work 65 hour weeks to having 3 – 4 hours free on a daily basis to help out other teams or study for upcoming exams. This elimination of overtime also had a quantifiable impact on our department’s budget: 12 people working 27 hours extra on a weekly basis at over-time rates was costing the company a great deal of money, and its elimination saved approximately $400,000 annually.
In one role, on one team, Excel saved an organization over $400,000.00 annually.
For me, that was just the beginning. After everything was automated, and I successfully trained the team on the new procedures and processes, I decided to move on in order to find my next challenge.
Thanks to Excel and VBA I continued to have similar impacts to processes in new and exciting roles. The resulting growth and advancement I experienced in my career was exceptional. I started moving into more intermediate and then advanced roles, and currently I’m a Team Lead at Mentor Works, one of the best companies I’ve ever worked for.
It’s right there. It’s likely already installed on your computer. You just need to click on it and open your mind to the possibilities. Anyone can do what I did; just about every company has this application, and there are many opportunities to improve processes, many opportunities to stand out in your career. They just need someone like you to take charge and make your job easier. Stop working hard; start working smart. Use the tools you have available. Once your job gets easier, you’ll have more time to help those around you.
You just need to give excel a chance to “excel-erate” your career.
Enjoy the ride.