We should all Excel at spreadsheets. Pardon the pun, but I really do believe this. Let’s do a quiz, complete the following sentence:
Spreadsheets are… a) a necessary evil of modern office life. b) a source of stress and frustration. c) extremely useful for speeding up mundane tasks. d) often used incorrectly.
If you answered e) all of the above, you win a point. You may be wondering how spreadsheets can be all of these things (and more!). Let me start by admitting something, I love spreadsheets. I work with data all the time, and I can code comfortably, but I still use spreadsheets a lot. I will also say, at times, I find spreadsheets to be a source of stress and frustration (of the cursing, and setting my head on my desk variety). However, the source of this stress and frustration is usually myself, or someone else, incorrectly using the poor spreadsheets. Spreadsheets take a lot of the blame for other people’s actions [Note: I considered a lot of words here: laziness, incompetence, lack of understanding to name a few. But none felt right].
I worked for companies and with people who have varying opinions of spreadsheets. From “why are you doing that in a spreadsheet? Write some Python code.” All the way to people who use spreadsheets for EVERYTHING, even instead of a database for messy, complex data. [Just in case I wasn’t clear — this would count as an incorrect, stress and frustration-inducing use of spreadsheets].
We hate spreadsheets because they are filled with numbers and finance data. We hate spreadsheets because we misuse them, and expect them to be something they aren’t. We hate them because we don’t understand how to use them (something we are trying to help with over at our Spreadsheet School). We hate them for many reasons, but we shouldn’t — to badly paraphrase Star Wars — hate leads to fear and fear leads to the dark side. Spreadsheets can make our lives so much easier (honest). Spreadsheets shouldn’t be scary and in this series of the same name, I’m going to convince you this is true.