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.

Fuzzy Lookups

McDonald's Hawaiian trash cans
In Hawaii, we are wealthy in culture but sometimes it creates challenges in managing data.

One of the projects I was working on for a few years involved cleaning up Address data for a customer database. I found out the admin did a lot of manually data correction. That works well for a customer base of less then 1,000, maybe even less than 500. In our situation, we had 40k customers at any given moment. That is a lot of tedious work.

When the admin was gone for vacations, I would take over the responsibility of maintaining the member’s database. Due to the restriction of having only x amount of hours in a day, I took some time to test out fuzzy lookups to manage the data.

The basic concept is that I can automate the computer to take a look at one list (in this case, the member’s database) and compare it to another list to see what are the strongest matches. Not being familiar with Hawaiian street names at the time, it was difficult to do it manually. So I decided I would try to compare a confirm address list and the customer list I had to maintain.

I never convinced the admin that this would help them with their job. I’m thinking it’ll be useful in the future to minimize “Lost in Translation” moments.

Anyway, to help you understand better, here’s a quick video on Fuzzy Lookups that I thought was useful: