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FAQ5 - What are the most valuable applications of automation using Excel?



On face value, this appears a straight forward question. Actually, it is a difficult question to answer because there are so many facets to the value proposition.

In general, automation can:
  • save you time in accomplishing tasks
  • expand the richness, power and flexibility of your data environment
  • both of the above
Automation features almost always result in a positive result.The key to the benefit is how you use it. Item 1 can save your company money. Item 2 can make your company a market leader.

If you want to reword your question to "what are some examples of commonly used automation features" then follow this link : FAQ6 - What are the most frequently used applications of Excel automation ? . If you are new to the kinds of things automation can do, then these examples should give you a glimpse Öalbeit a small one.

Otherwise, digress for a minute before going there. Letís talk about the value proposition. You had the right question all along. Sure, automation is cool and can do a lot of things, but where can you get the most bang for your buck?

How much is thirty minutes of an engineer's time worth if automation can save those minutes? The obvious answer is his or her fully loaded hourly rate x 0.5. This assumes he or she doesnít use those 30 minutes to go get coffee.

The not so obvious answer is more thought provoking.

What if this thirty minutes saved is 50% of the most highly leveraged hour of his or her day, thus extending his or her capability in this endeavor by 50%? What if this person is in the top ten percent of all individuals in your company who could, because of their ability, responsibility, or sphere of influence significantly alter the bottom line or future direction of your company?

This is probably not the kind of person who would go get coffee. What if his or her most valuable insights are derived from tasks involving data manipulation, advanced calculations, optimization, iterative solutions, advanced error checking, data filtering, custom charting, dynamic SQL based on calculation streams, curve fitting, manipulation of data arrays, etc.? What if these features can be provided most effectively by Excel automation or only by Excel automation due to time and money constraints?

Hold this thought.

What if automation added thirty minutes to the task of a market analyst? The obvious answer again would be his or her fully loaded hourly rate but times minus 0.5. Actually, this would be a negative gain. What if this additional thirty minutes a day gives this person a significant advantage over their peers who are reviewing the same market information but working for a fierce competitor?

What if there is a 50% chance that this analytical advantage can be translated into a significant increase in overall market share of your company in the next 6 months? What if they rearrange their priorities to allow them to utilize this extra time and delegate 30 minutes of something less leveraged to someone else?

Obviously in any of the above cases, the gain or return must be measured against the cost of providing and supporting the automation.

In most cases where the time savings alone is the focus; a professionalís saved time will in and of itself payout this cost with a reasonable return.

But, if you are considering automating applications for time saving dollars alone you are not looking in the best place.

If your company has the following:
  • highly talented, responsible, and creative people
  • these people are focused on high leverage/high impact activities
  • and they are not getting timely information in the form they need
then you have not only a problem; you also have a huge opportunity.

If by chance Excel automation is something that can get you there quickly for a cost you can afford, then you have just hit pay dirt.

For a good real life example of how automation can impact a professional's reach follow this link : EX-5, Spreadsheets and the Web

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