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10 Myths About Microsoft Excel

A myth is defined as an imaginary and false belief. To put it in another way, the truth is not defined by consensus. Myths are prevalent in our lives; they should be acknowledged and corrected with sober judgment. This same concept can be applied to Microsoft Excel. In the process of delivering workshops
and seminars and answering questions, I’ve come across certain repetitive myths commonly held by users of this software.

Myth #1: It’s too hard to learn
It’s been said that nothing of value is attained without work. As with any other skill set or expertise repetition is needed to learn and master the craft. A toddler entering his/her first day of preschool starts to learn numbers, mastery of number recognition only occurs after constant repetition. The old
adage holds true “practice makes perfect”.

Myth # 2 Excel is Only for Accountants
Every so often I hear someone convey the sentiment that Excel is just for Accountants. That sentiment is the farthest from the truth. My rule of thumb is “If there is data, there is a use for Excel”. In Healthcare someone can track patient intake, demographics, to name a few in Excel. Electronic Medical
Records (EMR) and the reporting associated with it can be heightened by using Microsoft Excel. In Marketing Excel can be used to track the ROI (Return on Investment) associated with various advertising outlets and assist in search engine optimization, to name a few. In the Engineering\Scientific field, it
can be used to perform complex statistical analysis and other calculations related to experiments. In the Retail world, Excel can be used to increase a company’s bottom line through properly measuring and maximizing merchandise sales. For example one day I completed a project isolating the product(s)
which contributed most to the profitability of a company. That process is referred to as contribution margin. That same practice can be applied to restaurants. In addition, Excel can be used to assess the competion in a given location, forecast revenue shortfalls and even identify the next big sandwich. As
stated previously If there is data, there is a use for Excel.

Myth # 3 Excel is a glorified calculator
Once in a while I hear people refer to Excel as a “glorified calculator”. Was Michelanglo just another artist? Was George Washington just another general? The answer to those questions is unequivocally no. To use such a metaphor is to degrade its many attributes. This tool can automate tasks, analyze
projects and serve as a small database to name a few.

Myth # 4 “Excel is only for work”
Microsoft Excel is a dynamic tool typically used to help individuals advance in the workplace. Microsoft is often stereotypically placed in a box. However, it can have some diverse applications. For example, a growing community is using Microsoft Excel as a drawing canvas. Works of art are painted on a
spreadsheet. In some instances each cell serves as a pixel, shaded with different colors, fonts and borders to create works of art that rival the Mona Lisa. Many of the works of art created in this space are quite amazing. In addition, many people create full-fledged games using that tool. Popular games
include Sudoku, Tetris and Chess to name a few. An example of a simple game built in Excel is available on our Facebook page www.Facebook.com/ExcellentOnesConsulting.

Myth # 5 “I can get by without it”
In this day and age proficiency in Microsoft Excel is a minimum requirement in many administrative functions. A cursory review of various job descriptions will yield countless requests for Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Office (Excel is component of this suite) knowledge. Microsoft Excel has become
the lingua franc across administrative functions, regardless of the industry or field. In order to attain new employment or progress up the proverbial ladder, proficiency and sometimes mastery of Excel is needed.

Myth #6 “Excel is outdated and will die”
At the writing of this paper, Microsoft Excel has been actively used for almost 30 years. Though a past performance is no indicator of the future, we can place some degree of reliance that this software will continue to exist in the immediate future. One of the reasons why Microsoft Excel has replaced Lotus 1-
2-3 years ago was due to its simple design and user flexibility.

Myth #7 “Excel can’t solve my work problem”
Many people erroneously assume that this tool cannot solve their administrative challenges. Often that is due to a superficial knowledge on what Excel can really offer. Many breakthroughs and innovations arise from the uncommon applications of a common tool.

Myth # 8 “I know enough”
“The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know”. That saying is the best rebuttal to the “I know enough” sentiment. No matter how much someone knows about Excel, there is always an opportunity to learn something new. Be it a new way of applying this tool, new functions, add-ins or some of the
quirks in the tool. When I deliver Excel classes I learn from the diverse experiences of the group and their challenges. I learn about predispositions that help me craft relevant training sessions and build tools to handle their needs.

Myth # 9 “I have to be a Math whiz”
In America, a phobia related to mathematics seems to exist, thus evidenced by a glut of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering Math ) open positions but a dearth applicant pool. Many people think a high degree of math acumen is needed to be proficient in Excel. This is a false assumption. Barring the use
of the statistical analysis suite, basic arithmetic is the sole requirement to begin working productively.

Myth # 10 “It’s a standalone tool”
Microsoft Excel is one of the few tools available that has the ability to easily interface with so many other databases and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems. This is done via ODBC connections, CSV files as examples. In addition at the writing of this article, Excel 2013 promises to be more open, allowing users to use other software to access data saved in Excel.

Myths related to Microsoft Excel are essentially stereotypes affixed onto that software. In effect, those mental limitations upon that object limit our productivity with the tool. As in other aspects of life, attributing a certain characteristic to a group is an egregious error.

About the author



Othniel Denis is currently Principal of Excellent Ones Consulting LLC. He brings with him a background in finance, training, and information management systems. Prior to opening his own firm, Othniel spent the last 13 years in finance as an Analyst at organizations like New York University, Nassau County Government and Brookhaven National Laboratory to name a few...

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