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10x your productivity with John Franco

What's the #1 thing that every Excel user should learn to 10x their productivity? Part 1 with John Franco.
10x your productivity - Part 1 with John Franco of Excel Guru Blueprints

Our first response to the question we put "How can you become the most productive Excel user on your team ?", comes from John Franco of John helps intermediate and advanced Excel users beat deadlines by following proven formulas, macros, pivot tables blueprints backed by a deep understanding of core Excel concepts, through free and cost competitive Excel training.

Our 1st question to John was:
What's the #1 thing that every Excel user should learn to 10x their productivity?

He responded:
"I see a lot of unnecessary work being done in Excel... reformatting, reworks, last-minute changes, etc. How much of this work can be avoided by listening to what others really need? What aspect of the process is cumbersome and needs the most attention and improvement? So the #1 thing to 10x their Excel productivity is listening...and acting accordingly. Also, many users over-complicate their automation efforts and want to create enterprise-level macros or are paralyzed by the challenge. Yet, 90% of the time might be consumed by just 10% of the tasks such as data cleaning, formulas writing, data formatting, etc."

John hit the nail on the head right off the bat. It's not only important to listen to the needs of end users, but you need to seek out the feedback from the start.

I recall a large software project I managed a number of years ago. The platform we were creating was meant to replace the current system that had been in place for many years and no longer (if ever) met the needs of the business stakeholders. There was a large user base within the organization, themselves managers, who each had strong opinions of what should change and what should stay the same. Had we performed our business analysis with only the primary client representative - and relied solely on their feedback, I'm certain the project outcome would have been at risk. To avoid this, we scheduled meetings with many of the primary users early in the project and solicited their feedback on what they felt worked and what didn't.

★ Two important messages were communicated in this process ★

  1. Their feedback was important and we wanted to hear it. We demonstrated this by listening, and taking detailed notes.
  2. We clearly set the expectation that not every one of their pieces of feedback could be included.

The 2nd part was critical. Yes, we wanted the feedback - but we couldn't possibly include everyone's every idea in the final solution. Inevitably, what we found was that there was at least 20-40% commonality in the feedback that came back from the users.

When it came time for user acceptance testing, before rolling out the project organization wide, we got back in touch with each of the stakeholders we'd interviewed and from our notes could describe what parts of the final solution incorporated the feedback that they'd given. Every one of those stakeholders knew they had been heard and their feedback valued.

The project was a huge success. Where their had been concern about user acceptance of a change to the solution, that was replaced by a user base who felt they'd taken part in the process and welcomed the replacement.

Importantly this process helped ensure the project timeline, budgets, and overall project clarity were maintained, and resulted in maximizing our productivity and limiting re-work.

Our 2nd question to John was:
What's the #1 thing that will make their excel spreadsheets stand out and look professional?

He responded:
"Many Excel users with a technical background forget that the recipients might not be technical (managers, customers, etc.). I think that professionals should deliver what people need and want. And, learn some basic design and UX principles like how to use a color palette, how to layout reports, how to position content, etc."

Our 3rd question to John was:
What's the most common mistake you see people make in Excel?

He responded:
"The most common mistake is putting Excel on a pedestal. If you put Excel first, you start being distracted by every shiny object that comes with it (Microsoft promotes new features on every version and others rant about it). Focus on understanding the business and customer needs. Solve and deliver. Listen. Improve. Solve and deliver. At the end of the day, nobody cares about your Excel expertise but how much you make other lives easier."

It's clear John places a lot of value on listening to customers. No doubt this is a big part of his success.

A big thank you to John for taking the time to answer these questions. Over the course of the next few weeks, we have another half a dozen or so interview emails like this one lined up.

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