Getting Radical with Excel

After decades of late nights, hard work, and burned-out Excel users, it's time for a radical change in our Excel strategy—when we work with data in Excel.

An image of a dashboard displayed on a mobile phone.
Here’s a radical idea: I updated a larger Excel dashboard with one command, then manually displayed a section of it like this on my cell phone.

Soon, I’ll be able to update any mobile Excel report with one command. And later, I’ll be able to update it automatically, every business day, with full error-checking—with one command.

This report also could display internal data with short comments, of course.

It’s time to think about Excel in a radical new way—when we use it to work with business or economic data.

It’s time, in fact, for an Excel revolution. Here’s why…

During our history with Excel, all of us have worked way too hard to produce way too little value for our employers and clients.

If we had done a better job with Excel, we would have given our managers significantly greater insight about company performance. And we’d have alerted them about growing problems—while they were still small enough to correct easily.

If we had done a better job with Excel, our managers would know much more about the business health of our customers, competitors, and supply chain. And we’d have given them answers to important questions that they never had thought to ask.

If we had done a better job with Excel, our managers would have consumed all that information by spending much less time, money, and mental energy on it than they do now.

If we had done a better job with Excel, we’d be able to spend much more time with our friends and family.

And we Excel users would have had a lot more fun with our Excel work!

Who’s to Blame?

Excel Inflation Tracker Dashboard
This Excel dashboard displays the average annual inflation rate for 20 products over the past three years.

Each product is selected from a list of 120 available product categories. The table automatically displays an ordered list of the 20 categories with the highest average growth rate.

The dashboard can be updated monthly, with one command. A similar dashboard could display trends for internal data, of course.

Those Excel problems are not your fault; they’re mine.

For nearly three decades, I wrote about small solutions with Excel. Like many other current and former Excel MVPs, I explained Excel functions, formulas, and commands.

So, for example, if I had been writing for the home construction industry, I explained how to use hammers, saws, levels, and so on—for three decades. What I didn’t do was to explain how to use those and other tools to design and build a house!

And besides, these days, ChatGPT can explain how to use Excel functions, formulas, and commands—along with hammers and saws—without my help.

So in the future, I’m going to explain how to use Excel’s outstanding tools to design and build workbooks that support ultra-productive Excel reports and analyses. This approach is critical to know because…

When Excel users report and analyze business data, they can be 10 to 20 times more productive than they are now! 

To be clear, think of all the standard Excel reports that your department creates each month. You should be able to update each of those reports with one command. And you should be able to distribute them as PDF or flipbook reports in a few more minutes.

Or else, a clerk—who could be an Excel newbie—could update and distribute them for you. In fact…

The goal of business professionals who work with data in Excel should be to create clerk-ready reports, ones that Excel newbies can update and distribute month after month, after month—without using VBA.

And that’s a revolutionary change in Excel reporting!

Creating clerk-ready reports will give you the time to analyze and report your company’s data in ways that delight your managers. It will give you the time to complete the many deliverables that companies often list in their job descriptions for positions like yours.

And generating clerk-ready reports—whether you use clerks or not—will give you the time to seek out new insights in the internal and external data around you.

The Road Ahead

In the years ahead, I’ll post short articles about how to use Excel flowbooks to create, update, and improve your clerk-ready reports, analyses, and forecasts. (Analyses? Yes. Many of your “one-time” analyses will need to be updated as time passes. That is, they’ll often turn into analytical reports—which also must be clerk-ready.)

To learn more about how this revolution works in Excel, and how you, your managers, and your company can benefit from radically improved Excel strategies, visit The Excel Data Plumbing Revolution.

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Early in my career, I worked nearly 20 years as the CFO of turnarounds and startups. But I eventually got burned out fighting continual struggles with cash flow. That's when I started to write about Lotus 1-2-3, the spreadsheet software that I'd been using most of the time during the CFO days. When Excel was about to be introduced for the PC, one of my magazine editors set up a meeting for me to see the product, talk with the developers, and write a cover story about Excel. So I used the first version of Excel before it was launched. And I had also used the first version of VisiCalc before it was launched. And then,