• Michael Sena

How Excel Consultants save your time?

Spreadsheet use is the second most time-consuming task after using email. Majority of employees use Excel 0.5-3.0 hours every working day. This article explains why so many professionals spend much more time than necessary and how to put an end to it with optimal use of spreadsheets & VBA.



How much time should my team spend in Excel?


There is no numerical answer to this question, but you should spend the least amount of time possible that allows you to achieve your goals. Excel is just one of the tools you use and it pays off to make it effective. Tackling spreadsheet-related inefficiencies saves money for the business and makes work more meaningful. At the end of the day, no one would like their job to be only about copy-pasting.


Why Excel use consumes so much time?


Excel has a low barrier of entry and almost every interviewee claims to be an advanced user. Whether you are a Finance Director or Consulting Lead, it is likely that your colleagues waste time in Excel. You are neither able nor willing control their every mouse click, but you can address systemic issues yourself or hire an Excel Consultant to do it for you. Here are 10 major reasons why Excel consumes too much time:


1) Insufficient or missing procedures & instructions


Warning signs:

  • Every planned day off provokes lengthy meetings to explain how to create reports or use files

  • Your colleagues refer to handwritten notes while working in Excel

  • Upon opening a spreadsheet, your team members often need some time to "familiarise" with it

Time wasting activities:

  • Searching for instructions

  • Disrupting colleagues to get answers

  • Working slower to anticipate potential errors

Solution:

  • Well structured knowledge base, consisting PDF instructions, in-file notes and sample task recordings.


2) Too much manual work in Excel


Warning signs:

  • Your colleagues do a lot of copy-pasting

  • To confirm your reports are correct, you need to go really deep into them

  • Raw data needs to be curated, cleansed & revised row by row

Time wasting activities:

  • repetitive work that could be executed with a few clicks when using VBA macros

  • fixing errors resulting from manual work

  • performing additional checks

Solution:

  • Automaton with VBA macros, including data migrations, error proofing and flagging.


3) Lack of standardisation & knowledge retention


Warning signs:

  • Your colleagues do similar things, but every person has their own way

  • The work of newcomers has to be manually revised before they "get up to speed"

  • Supervisors often dive deep into their colleagues' workbooks to check them

Time wasting activities:

  • Repeating the same mistakes you colleagues made in past

  • Not leveraging good practices

  • Extending induction periods

  • Complicating performance measurement for managers

Solution:

  • Creating team-level or department-level standards for all classes of spreadsheet outputs.


4) Insufficient data management


Warning signs:

  • It takes a lot of legwork to clean and format the data

  • Data discrepancies are found late and often result in the rework

  • Your colleagues often ask each other what certain metrics describe

  • People involved in handling data are not able to trace it back to the source

  • There is no documentation for data taxonomy (formats, descriptions, limitations)

  • Your data insights deviate from the reality because of varying classification conventions

Time wasting activities:

  • Manual data cleansing

  • Searching for data sources

  • Identifying differences between data sets from different sources

  • Taking the time of more experienced colleagues to explain data formats

  • Tracing data back to the source

  • Investigating root causes for data discrepancies

  • Fixing errors

Solution:

  • Precisely described and optimised data structures along with procedures of handling them.


5) Technical workbook design that propagates errors


Warning signs:

  • Your clients had seen the data they shouldn't have because the insights were not separated from the inputs

  • Plenty of workbooks relly on manual data copying and pasting

  • Data used for decision making is spread across multiple worksheets making it hard to draw conclusions

  • Your Excel templates are inflexible and adding an additional column or set of data is impossible

  • It is unclear which actions will corrupt your files or result in data discrepancies

  • Many files are full of data and insights that are unnecessary and complicate things

Time wasting activities:

  • Navigating through an excessive amount of information and number of files

  • Facilitating changes to templates

  • Fixing broken links

  • Tracing back and assuring the correctness of data

  • Excessively careful use of files to no damage fragile systems

  • Understanding what's important and what's not

Solution:

  • Purposeful technical design that facilitates file use and broader processes.


6) Uncontrolled spreadsheet workflows and collaboration


Warning signs:

  • Version control of files is hard and confusing

  • Your colleagues don't know when will they receive the inputs from their peers

  • Repetitive processes don't follow roadmaps and there are no deadlines set

  • Chasing for workbooks and CSV data is common

  • Employees spend a lot of time finding the right files in folders

  • There are no file changelogs, no editing restrictions and no passwords

  • You can access salary data or strategic confidential data if you dig deep enough

Time wasting activities:

  • Ad hoc communication with colleagues

  • Chasing others for their inputs

  • Files waiting in the email inbox

  • Searching through files to identify the right version

  • Making sure if the workbook is up to date

  • Work resulting from data compliance issues

Solution:

  • Workflows and timelines in place for every project, specifying who, when & how.


7) Lack of spreadsheet system architecture


Warning signs:

  • Your colleagues have to come up with data processing ideas ad hoc

  • It is not clear how certain spreadsheets were created or how will they be used

  • Thinks could be done faster if the templates facilitate the process better

Time wasting activities:

  • Using workarounds

  • Identifying the mechanics of spreadsheet systems

  • Fighting with inefficient data input & processing systems

Solution:

  • Revising file systems & templates against processes and adjusting accordingly.


8) Inadequate use of VBA macros


Warning signs:

  • You, colleagues, work in Excel frequently, but never use macros

  • People avoid using files with VBA macros and prefer to do things manually

  • Macros your team used no longer work

  • Over time, your macro-enabled workbooks started making work more complicated

  • You macros often throw error messages

  • Entire company spreadsheet infrastructure depends on one person

  • You need to be a professional programmer to use some spreadsheets

Time wasting activities:

  • Dull manual work

  • Navigating not user-friendly interfaces

  • Handling discrepancies in low-quality macros

  • Troubleshooting VBA errors

  • Crisis management when the only programmer is ill

  • Overcoming unnecessary technical skill barriers

Solution:

  • Appropriate use of VBA automation making work easier and accessible to non-programmers as well as sustainable without in-house VBA developers.


9) Abysmal visual design of workbooks


Warning signs:

  • It takes minutes instead of seconds to find crucial information in your dashboards & reports

  • Your workbooks don't distinguish important information visually

  • You have to excessively narrate when presenting your data sets to convey the message

  • You are not able to trace information back to the source

  • The Excel files in use have chaotic manual notes in cells

Time wasting activities:

  • dealing with information overload

  • manually tracking data back to the source

  • explaining how the file is structured and what is important

Solution:

  • Embedding good design practices into the file creation procedures and abiding by them.


10) Excel skill gaps


Warning signs:

  • Your colleagues often use manual workarounds

  • Some files work perfectly on some laptops, but not on the others

  • It is unclear to external stakeholders on how to use some files

  • Glitches, formula errors, missing cell links and data discrepancies are very frequent

Time wasting activities:

  • Not leveraging existing systems for efficient work

  • Committing errors resulting from insufficient technical knowledge

  • Asking team Excel Experts on how to use certain functionalities

Solution:

  • Pairing workflows with the right training and proper outlining of the skills necessary to manage them.

See our complete illustrated guide to efficient Excel to optimise spreadsheet use in your company.