Excel Is Useless

Anyone can have Excel on his or her computer just like anyone can have a guitar at home. But what you do with it is what counts. Can you think of any “Rock Stars” in Excel? (Photo Credit: D. Ramos, Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle)

Reading my daily periodicals, a headline caught my attention: “CFOs No Longer See Excel Skills as Vital for New Hires“.

After building a successful meetup and finding professionals who are interested in using spreadsheets, I stayed calm and collected but curious. The basic gist of the article is that Excel as a skill isn’t more necessary than having the skills of adaptation. I can completely agree with that.

So why is my blog titled “Excel is Useless”? I’ve spent enough time with a variety of companies to see a pattern that involves Microsoft Excel. I had plenty of colleagues who had “Excel Skills” at different levels. My most successful colleagues were open minded to change and were able to adapt their thought processes to leverage Excel.

Sometimes software is sold as a magic pill to solve all your problems but it’s only as useful as the person using the tool.

Questions? Comments? As always, holler @ me and let’s talk story.

Going Paper to Digital

The Infamous Eta Class of Alpha Kappa Omega Beta Chapter circa 2005.

During college I was the webmaster for my fraternity, at the time two chapters. Also, juggling the secretary role gave me the unique privilege of maintaining documents for the organization. I actually enjoyed taking notes and making sure at least one person (me) knew what was happening and decisions being made.

Since my concentration in business school was management information systems, I saw an opportunity to flex the principles I was learning. We needed a way to manage our member’s information. So guess what I did? I built a content management system (CMS) from scratch.

I went about my way designing and making sure the database was scalable and that the user interface was friendly. It was technically sound.We went from information on paper to digital (buzz phrase these days is going “cloud”). I was proud of the work that I did and my brothers were excited about the presentation of the website because it looked cool. However, I was “getting high on my own supply”, per 1982’s Scarface.

The product/services I was providing wasn’t what Tony Montana was selling, but the feeling and lesson was similar.

Let me further explain. I was selling a product to my own organization (at the end, myself), which means, the value of the product was never presented. Because I had the resources and knowledge to get it done, value wasn’t communicated. Only I saw the system behind the pretty presentation.

We had the capabilities of having our own “Facebook” or “MySpace” where we can share private information, make specific information public, etc. There was a place to store documents. The problem? We had less than 50 members and out of all the members, there was a handful who was interested in leveraging the power of the CMS.

So what did I learn?

  1. It’s important to know your customer. This example is a project that majorly served myself and my vision. However, the by product was that it looked cool enough that people enjoyed seeing the face.
  2. Be aware of scaling. The right solution at the right time. In this example, building a CMS in 2005 was overkill for a very small organization.

Overall, no one hated me but I didn’t have a chance to correct my path at that point in time.

Questions? Comments? Always down to share lessons learned. Let’s talk story, holler @ me.