Reality Check

VSTO jobs 

I use Jobserve (UK) as my reality check for technologies, I’ve been burned too many times learning useless stuff.

So now and again I look to see whats hot. This is the first time I have ever seen a VSTO job, and the technology is 4 years old. I presented about VSTO and Excel in VS2003 and VS2005RC1 at a Microsoft community event way back in 2005. I noted then there seemed to be very few jobs requiring this skill. Now don’t get me wrong, there is lots to love about VSTO from a technology POV, but as a businessman, 1(one) matching job really doesn’t look like a great investment at this time. I know Orcas promises a lot, but when will the demand kick in?

In fact I struggled to find very much at all combining Excel and .net, outside of jobs also requiring investment banking experience, and based in the City.

For comparison there are 123 Excel and VBA jobs listed. (there are 7 Excel and VB6 jobs).

When deciding where to invest your learning time/effort how do you choose?



11 Responses to “Reality Check”

  1. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    New stuff is always of high interest simple because it’s new!

    When customers started to ask about solutions that I couldn’t do with VBA but with classic VB I started to learn VB in the mid of the 90’s. I also did some courses in C/C++ at that time.

    When customers started to ask about connecting Excel to databases I started to learn databases. I did some courses and enjoyed it very much in particular SQL.

    When .NET was released 2002/2003 I started to learn VB.NET and I slowly replaced some customized classic VB solutions. This time I only took one course ;)

    When VSTO 1.0 was released I spent considerable time to learn it but I never managed to turn it into business. Simple because it never exist any business demand for it.

    Now I invest even more time in VSTO but this time I don’t expect to leverage it in terms of business. At least, not in the short run and therefore I do it just for fun!

    The above short story cleary indicates that .NET/VSTO have, in my case, never been demand driven among my customers.

    Kind regards,

  2. Jon Peltier Says:

    When I get a request from a client or prospect for somethig out of my expertise, that’s when I do a little learning. I rarely do anything as formal as sign up for a class. Usually all I need is some tutorials, some samples, and some time, and fortunately Google is a fine source of the first two. I usually don’t stray too far from Excel/VBA, either; it’s either using a different VBA object model, or figuring out how to extend Excel in a different direction (e.g., SQL or running Excel from VB6 or whatever). The next big thing I have to learn might be VSTO or VSTA, but I think there are many years before either replaces VBA.

    I’ve had only about three inquiries in which the client indicated the solution required anything dot-net. One of these was a true need for dot-net, or at least for something more than VBA. The other two were responses, I guess, to fancy magazine ads or articles about the wonders of dot-net, but in reality both were suited for VBA. I did one job in Excel and PowerPoint VBA, and the other prospect went elsewhere, because they’d decided they needed dot-net to automate PowerPoint from Excel despite what I assured them (and demonstrated via my web site and an example or three).

  3. Simon Says:

    Dennis – the hobby (with potential) approach makes lots of sense, I do that too.
    Jon – I agree on just in time learning, I have a few things that I would be happy to learn as soon as there is a potential project.

  4. Marcus Says:

    Interesting – I also used the same approach to determine if I should pursue certification.

    Like yourself I focus on the fact that there’s one of me. Ten years ago I’d be up to the wee hours learning new technologies for the enjoyment. Today with the 3M’s (marriage, mortgage, munchkins) I look at learning a technology from a ROI perspective. I’d also dig deep into a new technology but now only dig as far as I need to get the job done efficiently and effectively.

    I’ve actually bought 2 VSTO books but have yet to delve into them for lack of demand. I actually do work with investment banks in the city. However they’re conservative enough that I’ve yet to encounter a widespread implementation of .Net. For the type of work I do, most clients prefer to avoid solutions which will involve the IT department.

    Cheers – Marcus

  5. Simon Says:

    Marcus – Almost everyone (except Microsoft aparently) seems very keen to avoid the IT department. I’m convinced this is why VSTO hasn’t taken off, and I fear the same fate for Excel services. Or any other non-end user focused technologies in the Excel world.

  6. Marcus Says:

    Speaking of Excel Services – I’ve ordered a book as prima facie I can see where it can be implemented and I’d like to learn more. But I’m concerned that it may be added to the same stack as my VSTO books.

    Has anyone had any dealings with Excel Services? What are your impressions?

    Ironically, IT department avoidance is what keeps me working. To some extent, MSO development occurs to the extent it does as IT doesn’t have to be involved.

    Cheers – Marcus

  7. Dennis Wallentin Says:


    Without the centralized IT-departments in large corporates it would be very difficult for me to role out my solutions worldwide.

    For smaller corporates IT-departments don’t pay any attention to any of my end user’s solutions. The end users and me don’t pay any attention to the IT-departments.

    Can You provide us with the title of the book about Excel services?

    I have recently set up a Windows 2003 server test enviroment for Excel services. For me this server based services may turn out to be the best area for VSTO in the short run.

    Kind regards,

  8. Marcus Says:

    Hi Dennis,

    The book is entitled ‘Professional Excel Services’ by Wrox who generally publish decent material. Here’s a link at Amazon:

    Whilst it hasn’t been released yet – the choice was imposed by the lack of alternatives more than anything else. I’ve already placed a pre-release order with Amazon.

    Regards – Marcus

  9. Steve Hansen Says:

    Hi Simon,
    Nice meeting you last week. I use the same technique to gauge interest in the states at Like you, I’ve noticed little in regards to VSTO although they are finally starting to appear. VSTO search currently yields 8 job postings while VBA yields 734.

    With respect to my clients, the biggest hurdle to using VSTO has been the trepid adoption rate of Office 2003. It seems as most corporations took a trickle migration approach to Office 2003 and as a result I was working in mixed Office environments. As a developer, I love using VSTO. As a consultant, I am wary of increasing interaction with corporate IT departments. The vast majority of the time my departmental clients feel the same way. I’ve been bitten way to many times by IT departments that clearly don’t understand the financial implications of the decisions they make and just go about implementing draconian policies that merely serve to alienate IT from the rest of the company.

    Regarding Excel Services – once a company adopts MOSS and enables Excel Services – there really isn’t much more interaction required with IT. If there is, it would be a total failure of the IT department – Excel Services is all about end-user empowerment and extending the reach of Excel in a managed way. Considering the functionality MOSS provides (security, version management, ease of administration) IT departments should look at this very favorably vs the free-for-all that occurs on file shares.

    Professional Excel Services should be an excellent book. Shahar is an amazing guy and I’ve seen him demonstrate some very useful things with Excel Services. His blog is at:

    Also – keep an eye on Luis Bitencourt-Emilio’s blog at:


  10. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    Thanks Marcus and Steve :)

    I “googled” on the subject and that was the only book that came up.

    I plan to make some writes up later on when I know more about Excel Services & MOSS 2007.

    Kind regards,

  11. Simon Says:

    Yes it was great to meet up, I’m looking forward to the next one.
    Thanks for the links, I’ll keep an eye on them.

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