|Our 2nd response to the question "How can you become the most productive Excel user on your team?", comes from Jon Wittwer of Vertex42. Jon is well respected in the Excel community and has built an extensive library of quality templates that are used around the world.
Our 1st question to Jon was, What's the #1 thing that every Excel user should learn to 10x their productivity? He responded:
|"The most important thing that an Excel user should learn is to 'learn to learn'. Learn to question whether there is a better way to do what you are doing, and then search for the answer. Pay attention to what you are doing and how often you are doing it. Do you spend a lot of time scrolling and navigating around your spreadsheet? If so, learn some new shortcuts for that. Do you spend a lot of time manually typing data, when a web query or copy/paste or some other trick could get that data into Excel in a matter of seconds?"
"The main problem is lacking an awareness of what is possible. Watching some general Excel videos on Youtube, flipping through some physical Excel books, and following a few Excel blogs can help you gradually become more aware of what you don't know. Then, maybe when you see a problem a light will go on in your head and you'll say "Ah hah! I think I've seen a pivot table used for this. Now, I guess I'd better figure out how to use Pivot Tables."
|Here are a couple of shortcut cheatsheets that will get you on your way:
Our 2nd question to Jon was, What's the #1 thing that will make their excel spreadsheets stand out and look professional? He responded:
|"Let's rephrase that question from "stand out and look more professional" to "stand out by looking more professional." There are many ways to stand out, and one of them is to make spreadsheets that look more professional. Avoid clashing colors, chaotic layout, poorly labeled charts and tables, too much complexity, poor communication, unclear inputs vs. outputs, etc. If color choices are a challenge for you, try a monochrome color scheme. And always strive for intuitive layout and clear communication."
|Excel can sometimes be tricky to style just the way you want it, but with an idea in mind before hand of what you'd like the finished result to look like you'll find it much easier.
Here are a handful of style ideas to get you started:
Our 3rd question to Jon was, What's the most common mistake you see people make in Excel? He responded:
|"There are literally thousands of ways to make mistakes in Excel. But, if I were to pick just one common mistake, it would be the failure to copy formulas down when inserting rows, and that is closely related to all of the other issues surrounding formulas getting messed up when rows are inserted, deleted, sorted, and moved around. This error mainly occurs when a person uses somebody else's spreadsheet, because they aren't aware of how the formulas work. Excel Tables help prevent this problem, but using an Excel Table to solve one problem may just cause other limitations."
Watching and learning how end users interact with an application is an important part of how desktop and web application developers test their designs before publishing them. That same strategy is also wisely used by anyone designing a spreadsheet for others to use.
Jon went on to add, "If you want to design spreadsheets for other people to use, one of the most useful things you can do is to watch another person use your spreadsheet. Watching somebody else use Excel can also give you an opportunity to either learn new tricks yourself, or to teach new tricks. Just be very careful how you teach them. Asking "Would you like to learn a cool Excel trick for that?" is far better than saying "I can't believe you are doing it that way" or "[groan of frustration] please let me show you how to do that faster" or "when I watch you use Excel I feel like pulling my hair out - oh wait, I already did." Unfortunately, I've probably said all of those things, and I think the first way is better - maybe not the best, but better than the others. In other words, if you want to stand out in a positive way in your office, exercise some tact and be kind and helpful."
|Judging by his success in the market, it's clear Jon places a lot of value himself on all the suggestions he's put forward. Thanks Jon for taking the time to answer these questions.