We all like to do cool stuff. We all like to look cool. Cool equals clever.

But there’s a danger that the coolness you produce may be misconstrued as wasting company time.

I once did something cool (an organisation chart that could be managed by a grid of data on a spreadsheet) as a means of figuring out the latest graphics application. A whole weekend’s indulgence. When I unveiled it at my client’s on Monday it was an instant hit. Every department wanted one because it made it easy to manage changes to the organisation just by editing the data on a spreadsheet. So, a good result.

But some, a few people in IT, saw it differently. The photos of the staff they said would eat up bandwidth on the network. To which we pointed out that each photo was a small thumbnail at 8kb – not that it should matter even it they were big. But the second point was just the usual negative remark ‘how long did that take’? Along with ‘and what happens when changes occur’ from a few people who missed the point of the solution.

So, what’s my point?

There are some really cool stuff we can do with Excel nowadays. Spectacular dashboards, user interfaces, complex workbooks, even pyramids of linked spreadsheets with millions of links. I have met many ‘experts’ who wear the number of linked spreadsheets and the number of sheets in a workbook as a badge of expertise.

With the power of Excel and your skills, you can do one of two things.

  • Make spreadsheets more complex, that adds no value, and are a nightmare to maintain (ie. a negative value). Or
  • Simplify existing complexity that adds value to the organisation, and adds value to yourself, and gets your boss promoted.

If you take the second path no one can accuse you of wasting time, even if it takes you some company time to figure out how to do it.

In that scenario, your employer will pay you more to do more of what you’re doing (even though some people may make snide remarks). Expect even more snide remarks when you get recognised for the positive difference you’re making 🙂

As the British politician Michael Mates once famously said to entrepreneur Asil Nadir, ‘don’t let the buggers get you down’.

Hiran de Silva

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