Hired with Excel: Why Excel?

This is part of the “Hired with Excel” series. Read the previous post here.


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Business is all about solving other people’s problems. As an analyst, you want to solve your boss’s problems by providing efficient, accurate data reporting. Excel is the perfect tool to accomplish these goals.

But why — what problems does it solve? And what are its weaknesses? You are going to spend the majority of your workday using this software, so you should start internalizing its pros and cons. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of Excel makes you a better analyst and job candidate.

The Good

Excel has more strengths than weaknesses as an analyst’s tool. Here are the top features.

It’s cheap.  

A copy of Excel costs about $100. No other program is as affordable with a greater variety of

It’s easy to install.  

As part of the Microsoft Office suite, Excel loads easily onto any Windows PC. Compare this to the headache of downloading software from other vendors.

No programming knowledge necessary.  

Without Excel, most of the tools discussed in this book could be performed only with some extreme computer coding.  

It is versatile.  

Almost anything with numbers can be done in Excel. Sales forecasting? Dashboarding? Visualization? You got it! No other program can serve such a variety of data analysis needs.

It benefits from network effects.  

This is a fancy economics term that is best explained through a real-life example. Chances are you’re a Facebook user.  One reason is probably that all your friends use Facebook, too.  This is a “network effect.” The usefulness of something increases with the number of people using it.  Let’s say you want to send a spreadsheet to a client or prospective employer.  Are you going to send it in Lotus 1-2-3 or Excel? Chances are that your recipient uses the latter, so Excel is the winner. Excel only becomes more powerful as more people begin using it

It plays well with other Office tools. 

One big pain of data analysis is transferring data from one software program to another.  Excel fits hand-in-glove with other Microsoft tools.  From Access databases to other Excel spreadsheets, data passes to and from your spreadsheet with ease.  

There is a lot to admire about Excel. This one $100 piece of software contains more data analysis power than was available to the whole Apollo 11 mission.

But use this power with caution! Excel has some downsides. I will cover this in the next post. 


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