Oh the Irony

Anyone who has followed Dick Moffat and I bemoaning the decline of the Office developer will appreciate our frustration at the lack of development of this important market niche, and our gentle finger wagging at Redmond as the only organisation with the credibility and resources to drive worthwhile change.

(I have for a long time harboured the desire to help create a organisation of professional spreadsheet devs, but whilst its a nice idea I can’t see it gathering the required momentum without some serious backing. )

But this last week has been a real eye opener. Firstly, conference-wise it is clear our skill set is very very much still in demand (general systems, Excel, VBA, .net). The latest from the City is a great all round Excel/VBA/SSDLC/Csharp (you find that hash char on a macbook running Linux on VMWare) can command 1,000 gbp per day, and good ones are being poached left right and centre. It also seems many organisations are setting up Excel centres of excellence to drive up spreadsheet quality standards.

Secondarily, my inbox is sagging under the demands for Excel consultancy, especially xll/C API stuff. Sadly I am already flat out trying to resurrect my blogging career ;-)

Thirdly, Jobserve the barely useable IT jobs website is brimming with Excel related jobs at all levels of experience.

I find it very amusing that our skill set is not that popular, few people are moving in to it, few people regard it highly, but those that do, really do.

We are becoming the master of the skills no one wants but everyone needs. perhaps like septic tank experts??(not cockney RS).

So the message seems to be if you like Excel based work there is a good living to be made, even though not many people will give you any credibility. How long term that might be is an interesting issue. MS managed to kill VB off in a few short years, but VB was more a dev tool than a business tool. I don’t think MS have the requisite influence with the business users that are driving Excel/VBA demand. Business users will happily hold back on working versions rather than feel the upgrade pressure that Visual Studio devs feel.

How do you see things currently? and in the next 3-5 years?


ps I found the # – don’t know yet what I broke getting it working

19 Responses to “Oh the Irony”

  1. Mel Says:

    XL experts can sleep sweetly…I know of 2 new huge UDT/EUC control projects – global – where the demand for xl skills is key. In fact 1 major US bank made an offer and lost the guy to competition and is now looking again.

    And the biggest bank in the world is hiring for a massive EUC (call that spreadsheet) control project. They are not ditching xl – just getting to grips with business developed apps that must be within a control framework.

    And a third international project at a major US bank is developing in xl because it cant hire Oracle skills and anyway why spend $100k with IT Central when it can be built by the business for a fraction – I make no secret – EASA plays a part – but it opens the door for more xl devlepment.

    Sweet dreams.

  2. Hiran de Silva Says:

    True. When I started creating/selling VBA ideas to clients some 14 years ago I thought the gap in supply will soon be filled. It’s surely even bigger now – and the possibilities are x 100s (extend to SQL, OLAP, Web services, .Net).

    Long live the gap!

  3. Biggus Dickus Says:

    Simon….. Yes bemoaning is a good word for it. But I find more traction from the Access people at MS than the Excel ones. Glad to see you banging the gong again for more help from the Mother-Ship on Excel.

    The fact is that if the market for Excel/Access devs was healthier it would be the role of private third-party money to get out and promote Services like ours. Then the investment would be justified. Unfortunately the Office Dev story has been let sag badly (and in the last few years any noise at all has been about SharePoint only (and now “The Cloud” as well) and investing in Office Dev marketting is not a good bet IMHO.

    I don’t know what to do to get something going on this.

    About all that business you’re talking about – I’m sure not seeing it :-( … You must have better contacts than me.

    In just the last week I’ve had two clients approach me about Excel projects where they rejected my proposal for using URL’s to deliver Templates ot the users that then have a Submit button to push the data back to a SharePoint Doc Library for central processing in favour of just emailing them around… because the VP is comfortable with it.

    We may see more business but will it be good business? Will our clients let us apply our professional skills or will they still treat us like trained monkeys?



  4. Harlan Grove Says:

    Read the general IT sites, e.g., The Register or Computer World, and you see maybe 10 times as many articles claiming the web/browser/thin client is the only sensible way to go than favor any alternatives.

    Maybe more to the point, MSFT itself is embarrassed by its dependence on Windows and Office (well, more accurately, its abject failure to find other markets where it can earn 10-figure profits). As long as MSFT middle management perceives that MSFT top management doesn’t want to discuss Windows or Office with IT media, they have strong incentives NOT to push Windows or Office.

  5. Jim Cone Says:

    For what it is worth (July 19, 2010): From…

    “We interviewed Microsoft’s head of oil and gas Ali Ferling about what Windows 7, the Xbox and Cloud Computing have to offer the industry – and how Microsoft plans to make it easier to work with corporate software…

    …”where all our software will be run from a remote location, not our company servers…It might take 3 years, it might take 8 years, but cloud computing is inevitable, Mr Ballmer believes”…

    …”Even the humble Excel is due for an upgrade. The next version of Excel will be able to handle 5 millions of lines – more than most people would create manually, but not much if the lines are being generated from sensors taking regular readings. But you’ll be able to scroll through it as fast as if it had 10s of lines 20 lines, not millions Mr Ferling says.”…

  6. Harlan Grove Says:

    I have a step sister-in-law (my wife’s step sister) who’s a professional geologist. I once made he roll her eyes condescendingly when I asked whether geological sensors passed text streams to Unix workstations. Any fool should know just how inefficient that would be. It’ll be oh, so much more efficient writing such data into Excel worksheets? I suspect not.

    From another perspective, anyone stupid enough to scroll through hundreds of lines of text data, much less millions, rather than GRAPHING them, is in the wrong job. So some near future version of Excel will have live updating and scrolling line graphs a la the performance monitoring graphs in Task Manager?

  7. sam Says:

    “The next version of Excel will be able to handle 5 millions of lines”…and 1 Million different colors…..

  8. A Dashing Blade Says:

    “I find it very amusing that our skill set is not that popular, few people are moving in to it, few people regard it highly, but those that do, really do.”

    Can only speak wrt the front-office investment-banking area but my obsevation would be that no self-respecting IT grad is gonna want to sully his/her hands on something regarded as non-sexy as a 15ish year old language (ie vba).

  9. Time to put my foot down (?) « Dick Moffat's Excel and Access Blog Says:

    […] as Simon Murphy recently alluded to on his Blog(https://smurfonspreadsheets.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/oh-the-irony/),  it looks like the demand for our sevices MIGHT be going up, so we’d better think about […]

  10. Simon Says:

    Totally agree Dashing – makes it a steady opportunity I reckon.

  11. quant BA Says:

    In the derivatives world of banking – excel is still the best front-end for the majority of tasks. Although major projects may be use .net/java, you will always need VBA for its speed and flexibility.

  12. David Hager Says:

    All this work appearing, and no one has even mentioned the potential impact to the job market by PowerPivot. I do not think I am going out on a limb by predicting a doubling of Excel-related job offerings within a year.

    • Biggus Dickus Says:

      I agree. And PowerPvot SHOULD be a major if not THE major part of that story. It will drive Excel deeper into the “Data-Centric” core of corporations and if spreadsheeters get it it will allow us to “up-sell” the capability of Excel generally.

      One concern I have is that PowerPivot is part of SQL Server at MS not Office (??). Although there is definitely a kinship there, PowerPivot is not under the Office banner and so may not be included in Office promotion and marketting and so may miss the general Office (rtead Excel and Access) communities worldwide.

      I hope I’m wrong and you’re right :-)


      • Bob Phillips Says:

        I think you are right Dick. Although I too see PowerPivot as a big deal, Excel usage will mainly be restricted to users doing ad-hoc querying. The SQL-Server guys see it more as a prototyping tool, test something out before you do it ‘properly’ in SSAS.

  13. David Hager Says:

    A PowerPivot cube can be used as a data source for SSAS and other OLAP tools. It will be the Excel guys that clean up that data and add DAX formula columns and measures [learn DAX!] for initial analysis. The SS guys will find that data quite useful for later massaging with the real power tools.

    • Bob Phillips Says:

      I appreciate that, but in most organisations I now, there are no Excel guys, just users who use Excel. The development guys, including those SS guys, wouldn’t let these users anywhere near what they do.

  14. Marcus from London Says:

    As for work volume I’m definitely finding London a freelancers market, your mileage may vary. The number of roles is way up, as are the rates. Having said that, I’ll add two caveats.
    Firstly Excel is not an island – typically, Excel itself is just one piece of the development puzzle. While there has been database (relational and multidimensional) interaction from some years, the composite skill set Excel/VBA/.Net/C# is very much in favour.
    And secondly is domain knowledge – there’s a huge discrepancy in rates between IB and non-IB roles. However the usual Catch-22 condition applies in initially gaining IB experience.

    5 millions of lines
    Noooooooooooo. Sadly further incentive to retain unwieldy spreadsheets in a format in which they don’t belong.

    “…IT grad is gonna want to sully his/her hands on … vba”
    I’ve witnessed this first hand. Young, smart, the world-is-my-oyster grads resentful that they’re subjected to VBA development. To add insult to injury, they rarely know Excel well enough to develop effectively.
    One recent grad at an IB confided that he turned down a role at Google ‘for this’. Meanwhile, the lack of fresh blood should keep existing players busy for a while.

  15. Türkh Web Tasarım Says:

    Totally agree Dashing – makes it a steady opportunity I reckon

  16. Simon Says:

    I’m not convinced any feature of Office 2010 is going to have any noticeable job market impact for at least 2 or 3 years. Possibly when O2003 expires in Apr 2014 there might be a move to the then current Office. Most large cos that I know are just starting to evaluate O2007

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