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Why Hire an Excel Consultant

In previous articles, I’ve talked about the benefits of using Excel to Automate Business Tasks.  I’ve also shared common areas were you may be able to use Excel Automation along with a few examples.  Often, small and medium size businesses don’t have the skills or the time to spend automating these tasks.  There is just too much to get done or perhaps the tasks require skills that are beyond the average Excel user. In these cases, you should consider hiring an Excel consultant or developer. There are many reasons why this is a great idea.  Here are a few of them…

Excel is Vast

Many people do not realize just have vast and extensive Excel is.  By far it is one of the most complex pieces of software I have ever seen or used, yet unfortunately, most people only use about 10% of it, much like our brains.

Excel consultants are a unique breed who actually enjoying learning the other 90% of what Excel can do.  They speed hours reading articles, looking at examples and just messing around with all those little known features, tips and tricks.   Because of this, they often can find elegant solutions to automation problems that most people won’t think of.

It is interesting to note that even after 16 years of digging into the depths of Excel, I am still finding things I didn’t know existed.  Earlier this year, I partnered with Dr. Wittwer at Vertex42.com to put together Spreadsheet Tips Workbook.  This book combines all of the best tips and tricks we know (over 140 of them) into a single workbook to help make anyone a more effective Excel user.  Imagine our surprise when we actually learned something new from each other in one of those forehead slapping moments “I didn’t know you could do that….”.  Just goes to show how extensive and vast Excel really is.

Experience is Key

Excel consultants have experience, both the good and bad kind.  Because of this experience, they usually know the right kinds of questions to ask and they can usually recommend the best solution to any given problem.  The goal is to not only find a solution, but to find the best solution for any given problem.  A good Excel Consultant will be able to understand the problem and identify a solution that works to meet the business needs and the budget while still allowing for future changes and expansion.

Getting the job done – fast

Consultants will also have the benefit of being faster than most people at putting good solutions together. They are fast because they have developed their skills and are very familiar with Excel.  They also have libraries of code they have developed for other projects they can reuse.   Their experience also helps them identify and start with the best approach, minimizing rework or issues and having time to focus on the project. This is helpful in time sensitive situations and should also be considered when you are thinking about the total costs of the project.

Common Reservations

I often talk to people who are hesitant to hire a consultant.  Here are some common reservations that I hear…

Cost

By far the most common reservation, and in many cases a valid one, is the cost of the project.  If your business is extremely small and tight on cash, then perhaps automation is not the best option for you. But if you have tasks that are costing you real dollars in labor and missed opportunities, then take an objective look at hiring an Excel Developer.  Make sure you consider all of the real development costs and weight them against the real cost savings you can achieve with automation. Just remember that it can be difficult to assign real cost savings to many of the benefits. Finally, think about how any automation might help you as you grow your business.

Don’t forget that you are hiring a professional to help create custom software for you. Yes, that software is in Excel, but it will still be highly customized and efficient.  Doing the work in Excel will be less expensive 9 times out of 10 as compared to from-the-ground-up development outside of Excel.

I can do it myself

Another common reservation is that “I can just do it myself”.  While this may be true, the reality is that most people don’t have the extra time to design and develop custom automations for their business or their job or else they would have already done it by now.

I’ve had a number of clients that were doing their own development work, but eventually came to me to help them do something that they just couldn’t figure out.   Interestingly, once they realized how helpful an Excel Consultant can be, they ended up turning over all of the development to the consultant.  When asked about it, they usually indicate that by hiring out the work, they have way more time to devote to their core business and customers and they have a better system in the end.

Those who usually do their own development do so at the expense of other business needs such as business development, customer service or personal/family time.  For example, I had a client a few years ago who was very intelligent (he was a surgeon).  He spent many hours putting together a system that would track certain information about his business.  He basically taught himself Access and spent many extra hours working on this project.  In the end, he simply couldn’t get it to do what he really wanted it to do.  So he ended up hiring me to help “fix” it.  I had to basically discard most of the existing project because it wasn’t usable.  He was chagrinned that he had wasted so much of his own time and was very happy with the finished system and how quickly we were able to get it up and running.  He was also happy to have more time to focus on his family and his core business.

Is Excel right for me

Sometimes people have reservations about hiring an Excel Consultant because they are not sure that Excel is the best solution for their project.  I will be the first to agree that while Excel can do many thinks and is great for many projects, there are many times when another option would be a better solution.  This is why it is important to find an Excel consultant that also has software development experience and capabilities. This way you get the best solution for your needs and not just the most convenient one.  A good Excel consultant will help you determine whether Excel is right for your project.

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