Where has all the Excel development gone?

The amount of Excel (developer) jobs advertised at the moment is tiny. And this decline is not a temporary thing it seems like a terminal nose dive in Excel development roles.

If no one is recruiting Excel specialists for dev roles then

  1. Have they stopped developing spreadsheet based systems?
  2. Have they stopped supporting the existing ones?
  3. Are none specialists now doing that work under the radar?
  4. Has everyone just got the right amount of people already?


My answers:

  1. IT departments largely have, the business not.
  2. IT departments largely are trying to, the business not.
  3. Yes, very much, under the radar with the invisible budget
  4. Nope

I have some more posts lined up in this area so I don’t want to add too much, just that I would be very interested to hear your views.

Future posts will look at some of the reasons for this shift and skill set factors (Excel, or Excel & VBA alone have not been enough for a long time).

What are you seeing?




8 Responses to “Where has all the Excel development gone?”

  1. Colin Legg Says:

    Hi Simon,

    How much of the lull do you put down to seasonal trend? I saw some green shoots a few months ago and I do expect the market to pick up again early next year.

    Another point which might be of interest is the ratio of contractor vs. perm roles. I haven’t been tracking the market that carefully, but with IT department budgets being squeezed so tightly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more perm (or temp to perm) roles going than contractor roles. My impression is there are quite a few unemployed contractors out there, so all of this means that contractor roles are very competitive. What’s your view on this?

    All that said, it really isn’t easy to find developers with genuinely strong VBA, so I think it remains a highly valued skill even though, as you pointed out, it needs to be complimented with knowledge in other technologies such as .Net and SQL.

    I totally agree with your answers 1-4.

  2. kalx Says:

    In the financial services arena compliance issues have been putting a damper on things. Anecdote is not the singular of data, but I got a request today from a client that uses Excel to design fiber optic networks. I know dick about that, but all he wanted was for his spreadsheet to run faster.
    Excel will be around for a long time, just not in finance.

  3. Ingeborg Hawighorst Says:

    Maybe it’s a sign of the times. Maybe the newfangled 2013 “apps” stuff is starting to out-do classic VBA and the VBA developer is being replaced by a whiz kid who excels (pardon the pun) in JavaScript. — No, not really. That “app” stuff is not going to happen any time soon, because the “apps” still don’t cut the bacon when it comes to managing data and functionality inside the Excel sheet / workbook / application.

    So, maybe it’s really just a slow lead up to Christmas.

  4. Simon Says:

    I am aware of the seasonality, but I would have thought job ads should be up now as people look to recruit for a new cal year start. March is always key for the fiscal year, but in general I feel job ads dropping off.
    Permie v contractor is a good point Colin, I should track permie jobs more. I have seen pressure on contractors to go permie, so you could be right on the mix element too.
    Compliance is a good point too Keith, I am going to cover that later.
    And Ingeborg, I too am waiting for apps to take over the world. Maybe if the FSA accepted fart apps instead of insisting on UK GAAP …
    Someone else suggested all the Excel jobs have gone to India, which would be so idiotic its plausible (more in future post).

  5. jeffrey Weir Says:

    Maybe ORACLE are doing a better sales job for their overpriced, turnkey financial modules than mere Excel Developers are for their agile, tailored, and far, far cheaper ones.

    ORACLE don’t spend all that money on fast Americas Cup boats just to drink Champagne out of the Auld Mug.

  6. Simon Says:

    Its just dawned on me (as all job ads drop off the pre xmas cliff), that what I am seeing is a drop in the *proportion* of jobs that require Excel or VBA. I am getting a couple of pages less of results from jobserve, but almost none of them ask for Excel, they nearly all hit one of my other search terms (.net mainly).

  7. marcussyben Says:

    Well there’s your first problem, right there, Simon; you’re behind the times – the FSA is DOA.

    I’ve observed a similar trend as yourself, also even accounting for seasonality. I too would have expected more banks fishing for candidates to start in the new year (especially considering that their 2014 budgets would be kicking in).

    Based on JobServe postings, since I’ve been in the UK (6 years) my sophisticated finger-in-the-air guesstimate is that ‘pure’ VBA contracts are down by around half (70% down from the 2007 peak). However, while I don’t have any numbers to back me up, hybrid roles requiring VBA+C# do offset at least some of these losses.

    Looking forward to your views on [regulatory] compliance, an area I’m been heavily involved in and looks to continue to be a staple for some years to come.

    Sorry Ingeborg, I don’t subscribe to the JavaScript whizzkids hypothesis. Most of the IB FO environments I’ve worked in lock down the desktop environment to the extent that VBA is one of the few (only?) choices business users have to bypass IT.

    Cheers – Marcus from London

  8. Simon Says:

    What can I say? my last UK compliance project was to the FSA. Although we did get raided by the EU at one place.
    Yep compliance sure looks like the current gravy chain, most people I know are working in regulatory or compliance involving any number of random authorities/rules.

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