To properly define an Excel expert, we must know the meaning of the word expert.
ex·pert (noun): one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject — Merriam Webster
“I am a self-proclaimed expert” seems to be the mantra of the modern age. Degrees and doctorates at established universities, coupled with a long track record of competent service in a given industry, were once the criteria for defining expertise. But the emergence of ambiguous fields of expertise such as Search Engine Optimization, User Experience Studies, and Social Media Analysis has blurred the meaning of the word “expert.”
Excel is a little like that. There is no university which offers a degree on “Excel Expertise.” But there are ways to tell if the Excel expert you’re about to hire really is an expert or just a self-proclaimed guru.
1. Can the purported Excel expert program in VBA-Excel’s built-in computer programming language?
If he cannot, he is immediately not an expert. There is no need to read any further.
“VBA” stands for “Visual Basic for Applications.” It is Microsoft Excel’s “hidden” programming language. Its power and potential for solving everyday business problems with Excel cannot be understated. Professional and competent use of this feature can turn any mediocre Excel workbook into a workhorse of dazzling efficiency.
All of the programming language’s possibilities are impossible to enumerate here. Take a look at some of our customised business tools for Excel to get only an inkling of what can be done with Excel programming.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
A true Excel expert doesn’t merely dabble in Excel’s programming language. He is a master at it.
The more complex your project’s needs are, the more VBA programming will be required as a skill.
2. Can the expert demonstrate his knowledge of Excel functions and formulas quickly and easily?
An Excel specialist who does not have an absolute and total command of the majority of Excel’s built-in functions and formulas has no right to call himself an expert.
This one is easy to spot, even if you don’t know the formulas yourself, because a true expert should also be able to explain the formulas at a basic level to you, and in a way you can understand.
Ask questions about the potential project. Have him discuss with you how he would solve certain problems regarding the workbook. People who want only to dazzle you might leave you feeling more confused after such a conversation. A true expert will leave you feeling enlightened.
The true Excel expert knows his formulas and can explain them clearly when asked about them.
3. Are his workbooks visually appealing as well as functionally correct?
Excel programming and Excel functions are the guts of the vehicle–the engine, the transmission system.
When a person first starts learning about Excel, often they get embroiled in the potential of these formulas. Their workbooks become overly complex. They sometimes want to try every single formula merely because it exists.
Your true Excel expert has been through this phase early in his career. He has fiddled with the engine, taken out his spanner and wire-cutters and pliers and toyed with everything from the spark plugs to the interior light. He knows how the car’s internals work through and through, and knows what is important and what is not.
After that, he can get into presentation.
No one wants to drive down the road in a sports car which looks like a jalopy.
The true Excel specialist will know how to make the final workbook shine. He will make it look good when it’s printed. The input cells will be easy to see. The cells with formulas in them will be protected so that they are not mistakenly overwritten.
Design is not something done as an afterthought. It is best done during the workbook’s creation. And if your Excel pro truly knows what he’s doing, the final design will be clean and simple, yet professional.
4. Does he have knowledge and experience in features seemingly unrelated to Excel?
Too many people consider Excel a tool found only in the accounting department, or in a stock broker’s arsenal.
Additionally, some people think that Excel can work only with Excel itself. In truth, Excel can work with almost all tools and software on your computer as well as on the internet.
A knowledge of Excel’s built-in programming technology is required for this. It opens vistas wide and large on Excel’s potential for small and large businesses.
At Eppert Consulting, we have programmed Excel tools which connect and work with Amazon Web Services, Dropbox, Google Maps, Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Access Databases, SQL and Oracle databases, and many, many other services and software. We have programmed tools which encompass PDF document manipulation, web uploads and downloads, image processing, the works.
If your expert is truly an expert, he has worked with a multitude of external services which enhance and accentuate Excel’s inherent features.
The scope, truly, is limitless.
Summary of how to choose an Excel expert for your project
No Excel specialist can claim expertise in Excel without an in-depth knowledge of Excel’s built-in programming language. Lack of its use is the difference between “good workbooks” and “spectacular workbooks.”
If he does not show a fluidity of understanding of Excel’s many functions, he is no expert. A true expert in Excel has such an in-depth knowledge of the subject that using it is a piece of cake for him.
A veritable Excel expert knows how to present his Excel projects. He is familiar enough with the inner working of Excel to have enough time left over to make your project also look sleek and spectacular. And the very best Excel experts do this all within budget.
Excel is not an island, and the truly competent Excel professional will know how to interlink Excel with other software and tools so that they work together. This way, he can provide a suite of functions which improve and facilitate complex tasks within your business.
Sure, there are also the obvious aspects of determining if someone really is an expert at something: Does he have good references? Does he have a wide and varied number of clients? Does his work speak for itself?
But these are things which one must determine with any business, not only Excel specialists. The above 1 – 4 are specific to Excel, and anyone claiming to be an Excel expert must pass with flying colours on each and every one of these points.
If you were to run Eppert Consulting’s skills and résumé through the above 1 – 4, I would hope you found us to be just the right Excel experts you needed for your next project.