Most of the companies could use some Excel help once in a while. Whether looking for just a single Spreadsheet Expert or entire VBA Development company, it is good to know the difference between Excel & VBA Programmer, Modelling Specialist, Expert and Consultant to make the right choice.
What do the majority of Excel Experts do?
This generic term is probably the most frequently used when speaking about skilled spreadsheet users. The vast majority of professionals calling themselves Excel Experts are solopreneurs sharing Excel tips online and creating bitesize tutorials.
How to benefit from their Excel expertise?
They are very useful members of the Excel User Communities, democratising Excel knowledge with their video tutorials, blogs and online courses. Some of them even spend years voluntarily helping other Excel users on forums or discussion groups and earning MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional) titles. If you are looking for a guideline of how to use a certain function or create a simple functionality, you may find a galore of their content of various lengths and detail levels. Their content also varies in terms of entertainment to knowledge ratio to match different audiences.
People follow them on social media to keep their Excel skills sharp or just come across their content when searching for a certain solution to their immediate problems. When doing that, do not lose your focus and try finding most concentrated and practical sources and don't be afraid to watch in double speed or skip some parts. If an audit is coming and you need to refresh knowledge of index & match combination or xlookup, you probably wouldn't enjoy 40-minute video on its applications for wedding planners... Practicality first!
What do some Excel Experts also do?
Then, there are specialists focused on Microsoft Excel as a piece of software, similarly to programmers oriented at one language like SQL. Many of them would further specialise on implementation and maintenance of different MS Excel versions, just like for instance SAP Consultants supporting companies with accounting transition. Such Excel Experts are concentrated on more functional, day-to-day work at companies of various sizes as contractors or deliver stand-alone projects. As they often work behind the scenes, they would not always seek publicity and often specialise in more than one package, be that full MS Office Suite or integrations with accounting or HR software.
Their level of expertise in different business areas might vary, but at least basic knowledge od Visual Basic (better known as VBA or Excel Macros) highly increases their capabilities. Depending on their profile, they might either just know Excel inside out or combine it with knowledge of Statistics and Econometrics, Finance, Financial Markets, Insurance & Actuarial, HR & Payroll, Logistics, Business Analysis & Planning, Project Management or Management Consulting. Even companies processing Customer Insight Data gathered from apps quite often use the support of Excel & VBA Experts, integrating spreadsheets with i.e. Microsoft Access.
Some of them, however, get unnaturally excited about Excel and claim it is a way of life.
Look for... practicality.
What do Excel Modellers focus on?
Some Excel Specialists focus on working with spreadsheets that describe systems and processes in quantifiable terms to aid prediction processes. They create and modify the mechanics of such tools (models) and use them to generate projections limiting uncertainty of future events or inadequacy of measurement.
Many of Excel Modellers work with financial models
Most frequently Excel Modellers are Financial Modelling Analysts who create spreadsheet systems for revenue and cost forecasting, budgeting, scenario analysis and various other purposes. Financial Modellers & Controllers for many years identify Excel as the most important tool they use.
The most recognised professional organisations like ACCA, CIMA & CFA also identified MS Excel as important for Financial Modelling.
Other Spreadsheet Modellers are hired by banks
Modelling is also widely deployed in banking. Business Analysts working for banks often require support with revising, maintaining and repairing valuation models, business plan projections and stress testing analyses. They also maintain and heavily rely on risk models, such as those for credit risk and actuarial probability models.
Excel modelling is quite widespread
Management Consultants working with various industries often use modelling in their research departments, sometimes even using Monte Carlo simulations. Sometimes modelling might also refer to statistical and econometric model creation and improvement. Excel is quite a robust tool for the majority of popular statistical models and tests and thus used for demand modelling, marketing & pricing. Sometimes optimisation models are used to save energy or resources or even to aid diet planning.
Some of them, however, are focused too much on the model complexity and might risk overfitting or overkilling relatively simple problems.
Look for... realistic approach.
Excel & VBA Developers/Programmers
What differentiates them?
They are those specialists who create Excel macros, user forms, spreadsheet extensions and background API integrations with other software. They usually have very broad Excel expertise and focus on efficiency as one of the major benefits of VBA is the automation of repetitive tasks.
What do they create?
They often engage in creating functional systems of connected files and creating front-end user interfaces. Using macros allows them to go a step further, making files more flexible or accessible to less proficient users, sometimes limiting in-file work to just providing the information required ad then running automated scripts with just a click of a button.
Unfortunately, many of them might only be focused on the development of software solutions, with little regard for user-friendliness or business justification. The red flag here would be the overuse of the jargon and very limited flexibility or their limited proclivity to facilitate customer's requests.
Look for... customer-centric approach.
Excel & VBA Consultants
They are professionals helping with all aspects of Excel work, from choosing the solution and software combination, through development and testing, all the way to implementation and manual creation. They would also be able to support you in choosing and evaluating deliverables against your business challenges and goals.
Having a knowledge base related to all major areas intersecting with Excel use, they would often approach it from the point of view of process efficiency, not only creating or fixing your files but also adding value through cost & error reduction as well as strengthening information flow. Their services let their customers achieve synergy of combing the development with full implementation in varying business scenarios.
Look for... business acumen.
Excel provides work to many different specialists identifying themselves with various job titles. Not always such nomenclature matches the understanding of the clients. That highlights the importance of achieving clarity over the scope of service required and provided.
As Senacea - Excel, VBA & Process Improvement Consultancy - we believe that it is the duty of service provider to assist the client in navigating through the landscape of their spreadsheet requirements. Being customer-centric, speaking their language, remembering that real people will use those solutions and that they have to be aligned with the client's goals, not the developer's fantasy.
Michael Sena.The founder ofSenacea - Analytics Consulting & Process Improvement Company headquartered in London, UK, operating worldwide.