Simple budgeting spreadsheet eg

Business Intelligence is the oxymoron that makes modern capitalism possible. In order for a company the size of a Fortune 500 to operate, key people have to know key numbers: how the finances are doing, what sales looks like, whether they're trending on target to meet their business goals or above or below that mystical number.

Once upon a time, Initech had a single person in charge of their Business Intelligence reports. When that person left for greener pastures, the company had a problem. They had no idea how he'd done what he did, just that he'd gotten numbers to people who'd needed them on time every month. There was no documentation about how he'd generated the numbers, nothing to pass on to his successor. They were entirely in the dark.

Recognizing the weakness of having a single point of failure, they set up a small team to create and manage the BI reporting duties and to provide continuity in the event that somebody else were to leave. This new team consisted of four people: Charles, a senior engineer; Liam, his junior sidekick; and two business folks who could provide context around what numbers were needed where and when.

Charles knew Excel. Intimately. Charles could make Excel do frankly astonishing things. Our submitter has worked in IT for three decades, and yet has never seen the like: spreadsheets so chock-full with array formulae, vlookups, hlookups, database functions, macros, and all manner of cascading sheets that they were virtually unreadable. Granted, Charles also had Microsoft Access. However, to Charles, the only thing Access was useful for was the initial downloading of all the raw data from the IBM AS/400 mainframe. Everything else was done in Excel.

Nobody doubted the accuracy of Charles' reports. However, actually running a report involved getting Excel primed and ready to go, hitting the "manual recalculate" button, then sitting back and waiting 45 minutes for the various formulae and macros to do all the things they did. On a good day, Charles could run five, maybe six reports. On a bad day? Three, at best.

By contrast, Liam was very much the "junior" role. He was younger, and did not have the experience that Charles did. That said, Liam was a smart cookie. He took one look at the spreadsheet monstrosity and knew it was a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. Unfortunately, he was the junior member of the engineering half of the team. His objections were taken as evidence of his inexperience, not his intelligence, and his suggestions were generally overlooked.

Eventually, Charles also left for bigger and brighter things, and Liam inherited all of his reports. Almost before the door had stopped swinging, Liam solicited our submitter's assistance in recreating just one of Charles' reports in Access. This took a combined four days; it mostly consisted of the submitter asking "So, Sheet 1, cell A1 ... where does that number come from?", and Liam pointing out the six other sheets they needed to pivot, fold, spindle, and mutilate in order to calculate the number. "Right, so, Sheet 1, cell A2 ... where does that one come from?" ...

Finally, it was done, and the replacement was ready to test. They agreed to run the existing report alongside the new one, so they could determine that the new reports were producing the same output as the old ones. Liam pressed "manual recalculate" while our submitter did the honors of running the new Access report. Thirty seconds later, the Access report gave up and spat out numbers.

"Damn," our submitter muttered. "Something's wrong, it must have died or aborted or something."

"I dunno," replied Liam, "those numbers do look kinda right."

Forty minutes later, when Excel finally finished running its version, lo and behold the outputs were identical. The new report was simply three orders of magnitude faster than the old one.

Enthused by this success, they not only converted all the other reports to run in Access, but also expanded them to run Region- and Area- level variants, essentially running the report about 54 times in the same time it took the original report to run once. They also set up an automatic distribution process so that the reports were emailed out to the appropriate department heads and sales managers. Management was happy; business was happy; developers were happy.

"Why didn't we do this sooner?" was the constant refrain from all involved.

Liam was able to give our submitter the real skinny: "Charles used the long run times to prove how complex the reports were, and therefore, how irreplaceable he was. 'Job security,' he used to call it."

To this day, Charles' LinkedIn profile shows that he was basically running Initech. Liam's has a little more humility about the whole matter. Which just goes to show you shouldn't undersell your achievements in your resume. On paper, Charles still looks like a genius who single-handedly solved all the BI issues in the whole company.

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