Skill level

I saw an interesting comment on Dick Ms blog the other day.

The suggestion was that perhaps Excel skill levels had increased leading to reduced demand for external consultants.

Here is what I think based on what I have seen:

  1. Most recruiting orgs expect staff to be already competent in Excel
  2. Most staff aren’t as good as they could be or as they think they are
  3. Orgs have no sensible way to judge how good or not someones skill level is
  4. Many staff are crying out for Excel related training/coaching/support tailored to their availability and needs (especially VBA)
  5. Excel use has increased massively in many orgs over the last few years.
  6. Many of the new uses are more complex than previous
  7. IT/IS department interest/support hasn’t really changed much
  8. No one is rushing out to buy non-standard classroom based training
  9. Some people actually think Computer Based Training works!!
  10. Most Orgs offer CBT, but know no one has the time or motivation to participate
  11. Many orgs are trying to discourage spreadsheet use, but few offer viable alternatives

So in summary I don’t think skill levels have increased, but I do think complexity and the need for training have increased. I think worthwhile training provision has decreased, but pointless provision (CBT) has exploded.

Many orgs are picking up End User Computing policies which seek to limit/reduce reliance on spreadsheets – few back this up with consulting and training to help migrate apps and train users to develop in other ways or with other tools.

What do you think?

Have you ever successfully completely a CBT course relevant to your work?



6 Responses to “Skill level”

  1. Dick Moffat Says:


    “I saw an interesting comment on Dick Ms blog the other day. The suggestion was that perhaps Excel skill levels had increased leading to reduced demand for external consultants.”

    But not by me !!! ….. I disagreed with the post , let’s get that straight :-)

    You pretty much nailed it here (except for your text alignment). All thse are true and if you stand back and look at them all together there is a BIG problem out there and one that smacks of oppprtunity for Microsoft (and therefore us) to move in and help that market and “lock-in” those users.

    For MS to let this anarchy rule the use of spreadsheets in the world’s corporations and then let it lead to IT using that as yet another argument for shutting it down, while offering nothing at all as an alternative, is ridiculous, irresponsible and bad business IMHO.

    But I guess you aleady knew I thought that ….


  2. Harlan Grove Says:

    As for CBT, it CAN work. Lotus Symphony back in 1984 and Lotus 1-2-3 Release 2 both came with macro-enabled workbooks which provided guided introductions to the respective programs. Not perfect, but leagues better than anything Microsoft has ever bothered to distribute. At least it can be good enough to get someone started.

    As for live training, it’s wasted without support and coaching over time. No IT/IS department is going to shell out for that.

    That’s the problem with spreadsheets: they’ve always been and likely will continue to be self-taught application development systems.

  3. Harlan Grove Says:

    Missed the bit about other tools. What would those other tools be? Where I work, there are a lot of canned applications supported by IT or the outside support provider (currently IBM), but non-IT users have Office Standard, so not even Access, end-user rather than developer licenses for Lotus Notes (so difficult even to write macros), IE6, Notepad and Windows Script Host as part of Windows XP. OK, batch files too.

    So either VBA at least with a 12-year-old IDE, or WSH/batch files with the Notepad/console back-to-the-70s ‘IDE’. At least there’s no paper tape or punch cards.

    In most large organizations users have Excel and not really anything else. If they can’t use Excel, the only alternative is doing things manually.

  4. Simon Says:

    Dick, soz, yep should have said it was not you, yep anarchy is about right!

    Harlan, I think I remember those helpful workbooks. Excel used to have (?still??) samples.xls which I found V useful when starting out.
    Those other tools would be whatever IT deems resolves the issues they see with Excel/VBA. I dunno what tech would fix their insecurities and quest for world domination?


  5. Andrew Says:

    Hi Simon,

    I work at A Very Large (Fortune 10) company.

    We couldn’t survive without very complex Excel based analysis.

    The majority of this is pretty simple stuff, but there are also complex models for investment decisions/managing trading positions, and some fairly sophisticated VBA enhanced tools.

    Our IT department, as a matter of policy, will not support end user applications in Access/Excel.

    So there’s an informal network of high end user developers, and also a three day class which attempts to put discipline around model and application development. This has been in place for 8 years or so, and is seen as a very successful effort. I think there’s a lot more that could be done, but it’s a pretty big boulder to push up hill.

    I’m still surprised at how little traction the end user developer conundrum has in business writing.

  6. Taming The Beast « Grumpy Old Programmer Says:

    […] a little while back now (I’m a slow thinker) but Simon Murphy, developing on a topic found in a post by Dick Moffat, discussed some observations of Excel usage […]

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