Excel Tools for Accountants
I’m on the phone with Frank while I’m driving on the 405. (I’m not breaking the law, because the state legislature thinks it’s distracting to hold a cell phone but not to speak via Bluetooth.) Frank, who does all the accounting for my company, has some strong opinions about Excel. He uses it frequently at his clients’ sites, where he pulls data together from various sources to construct cost and income analyses. Sometimes he does this as part of an audit, sometimes simply as a matter of making a point he wants the client’s managers to appreciate.
What Tools do Accountants Need?
That, says Frank, is why he uses Excel. The formatting that he can get into the reports, and the charts that he can create, are so good that his clients aren’t distracted by lousy appearance. Instead, they concentrate on the message that Frank’s trying to get across.
Frank tells me that he’s faithfully taken courses in Excel every time a new version comes out. He feels duty bound to do that, but by now he’s really questioning how much benefit he’s gotten from those courses – even when all the Microsoft Office applications switched from the traditional menu structure to the Ribbon. The courses teach him how to format a working capital analysis, how to create a chart of budget variances, and where to go for a page-break preview of a worksheet.
But the courses never seem to get to tools that would really make his on-site time more effective. It’s ridiculous, Frank says, but he seems to have to type the names of the months and quarters into worksheets every time he visits a client. Same thing with a chart of accounts. Ditto repetitive formulas and statement footings.
I explain to Frank that he can get Excel to do those things automatically. I also ignore him muttering, “This is so cool,” as I walk him through automatically getting month names onto a worksheet. Frank wants more, but it occurs to me that I’m not absolutely certain he’s off the clock, so I say goodbye and concentrate on avoiding a swarm of SUVs as I merge onto the 5. I try not to dwell on a news story that California drivers carry more guns in their glove compartments than insurance policies.
And I resolve to start writing a chapter when I get home. The chapter will discuss some tools that those Excel courses never seem to get around to.