Nearly 40 years ago, a new contraption called the “personal computer” began changing the workplace forever. For me, working then in retail advertising, I suddenly had a computer on my desk that replaced my typewriter, calculator and the need to rely on the mainframe locked away in the company’s data processing section.
I was also agog to discover I could make a change at one place in a document or table, and that change would be replicated throughout the PC’s software program instantly, automatically and amazingly. Sure, that’s no big deal today but at a time of carbon copies and ink erasers, Ronald Reagan, Live Aid and the debut of Neighbours – that functionality was extraordinary. But the real magic was to be found in the PC’s original “killer app” – the spreadsheet.
First it was VisiCalc in 1979 – called “the software tail that wags (and sells) the personal computer dog” – followed in short order by Lotus 1-2-3, Multiplan and, in 1985, Excel from Microsoft.
Today, Excel is the king of spreadsheets with its market share of 750 million users and countless uses from budgeting and payroll to forecasting, managing lists and stock, analysing trends and performing what-if? calculations. It’s even been adapted specifically for smartphones and tablets.
But Excel can’t function alone, and it needs a savvy user to really deliver results. That’s why Excel has been one of our most popular training courses, and here are a few reasons why demand for Excel training isn’t likely to wane anytime soon.
Seven reasons why workers and managers alike need Excel training:
1 – To get more done more quickly.
A working knowledge of Excel is de rigueur for many workers today, especially those who want to be more productive than the next person. But many of us are largely self-taught in using Excel. Admit it: we’ve all spent hours doing something that, with the proper Excel knowledge and expertise, should have taken us a few minutes.
A few additional skills and techniques can vastly improve how efficiently we can make Excel work for us. For example, users know Excel can add, subtract, multiply and divide, but it can do much more – and make you significantly more productive – with advanced IF functions coupled with VLOOKUP formulas and pivot tables. And then there’s Excel’s macro programming language, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), which you can use to automate routine tasks and create sophisticated customised applets to save you and your team hours of laborious work each week.
With proper training, it’s a given that novices and experienced users alike will discover useful, and productive, Excel shortcuts, commands and tips they hadn’t come across before. MCI’s experienced Excel trainers work with people from all industry groups to tackle Excel problems every day, and this experience puts them in a unique position of being able to view and solve Excel problems from a multitude of angles. And it is this multi-faceted experience that they routinely share with course participants, in the way of the tips and shortcuts, that really adds value to the learning experience – something you can’t easily get from a linear online tutorial or YouTube clip.
2 – Produce better reports and presentations.
Death by PowerPoint is one thing, but poorly presented Excel data runs a close second. Which is sad, because many of Excel’s most powerful, but least obvious, features can transform boring figures and lists into memorable presentations using colourful graphs and charts that deliver real insights and facilitate informed decisions.
3. Keep track of valuable information.
Do you think Excel is only used in the Finance department? Think again. An Excel database file is an ideal directory that is easy and safe to enter, update, store, track and report information of practically any type.
While fully fledged database systems like Oracle can be used in HR planning to manage payroll and employee information, exporting that data into Excel lets users add real value. With Excel it is easy to manipulate the raw data and find trends, better understand how the workforce is broken down by function, pay level or qualification – and how best to identify, plan and control employee-related costs. And what works for HR in managing employee info works equally well in sales, marketing, warehousing and, well, everywhere.
4 – Develop more insights.
Data analytics and modelling are all the rage and here Excel, well, excels for a lot less cost than enterprise solutions and every bit as powerfully in helping users uncover hidden patterns and question assumptions.
5 – Avoid career-threatening errors.
Mistakes happen, like the US factory in 2011 that misplaced $US6.7 million in a spreadsheet being used to track air pollutants which resulted in a $US350,000 fine from the Environmental Protection Agency. Even Harvard professors producing internationally renowned research are not immune from formula errors.
The point of this is that while Excel training won’t avoid every error, it will make mistakes far less likely and save organisations humiliation, money and reputational damage.
And don’t think it’s only high-profile Excel errors that make front-page news – individuals and businesses of all sizes lose money and time when Excel is used inefficiently, and that’s always important.
6. Make better use of IT resources.
It’s very likely your organisation’s IT team spends an inordinate amount of time fixing software issues for other staff members. It’s also likely that if rank and file employees received further training on applications such as Excel, they’d be fixing lots of their own issues, leaving IT guys and gals free to concentrate on high-value projects.
7. Be a star!
It’s great to be hailed as a hero because you happen to know an Excel shortcut or two or a life-changing feature that is unknown to others. And that’s where an experienced Excel trainer comes in who can reveal little-known productivity enhancers that can make a big difference to your productivity, and your ego!
And while most of us are familiar with Excel, few tap its potential to improve productivity and help us innovate and make better-informed decisions. Whether you require a basic understanding of spreadsheet functions to get a job or perform your daily tasks, or if the goal is to master advanced capabilities to help you really shine in the workplace, Excel training has a critical role to play in practically every office and every organisation.
That was true nearly four decades ago, and it’s even more true today.
We can help
From introductory and intermediary skills through to advanced knowledge needed by power users, including VBA programming, MCI has the industry’s widest portfolio of off-the-shelf, customisable, face-to-face and virtual classroom solutions to cost-effectively meet your Excel training need.