It is very common for financial professionals to have heavy excel-based workload demands throughout their job description. The ability to survive spreadsheets has found its way to be as common as a cup of coffee to get the motor running. Unfortunately, trying to control the numbers does not always have the same effect.
Well, it is time to take a deep breath, strategize, and attack those spreadsheets with a new mindset. Here is a list of five tips designed to help you control the numbers and communicate your results to senior management with confidence.
1) Work the assumptions, not the math.
Managers look to math as a tool to aid thinking and decision making, not substitute it. If assumptions are not clear, make sure to develop a simpler version or incorporate a dashboard that highlights the real assumptions and variables: margins, costs, growth, etc.
2) Focus on the outliers, not the statistical averages.
If you do not believe a trend will last forever, then segment outliers can help you define new trends. Understand the variances in assumptions and you will enhance your credibility when discussing business opportunities and threats with your managers.
3) Look past numerical face value, develop scenario analyses.
In order to provide some strategic direction, it is important to gain an insight into the ‘what ifs’: growth rates, market share, costs, salaries, etc. It is important to think big, so scale up and start with the biggest assumptions before you work your way down.
4) Understand the root causes, and don’t get stuck being the Band-Aid.
The math will show that there is a relationship, but will not necessarily tell you which is the cause and which is the effect. How you decide this determines how you act. How you act will impact your results, and ultimately how you present the data. Determine the root cause of your problem and put the ball back in your court to deliver effective controls.
5) Take a top down approach, find the right fit into your business model.
Every business has a simple financial model behind it; understand that and you understand how to make your business more profitable. Does your vision align with both your team and the organization?
Once you have mastered how to effectively survive spreadsheets, then sharpening your technical aptitude by learning 15 Really Useful Excel Formulas and an extensive list of excel keyboard shortcuts will help with speed and accuracy.
So try to forget the advanced math and keep it simple. Remember that the largest value-add of spreadsheet survival is ones ability to convince their target audience. Have fun building your story and try to remember that simplicity can be the ultimate bliss!
Further Reading: Who Knew Excel Could Do That? Ten Top Tips
By Andrew Pyzik, Wall Street Services Reporter
Andrew Pyzik is a business management professional who has worked with startup project ventures to top Fortune 500 leaders on an international stage. Currently teaching Finance and Managerial Accounting in New York, Andrew is the newest Wall Street Service’s reporter on industry news and must have finance skills for today’s top professionals.