PowerPivot Can Turn You Into James Bond

“OK, wow. THAT is SICK. Just. SICK.”
-Lead Analyst at this week’s consulting/training client

“We just eliminated the need for our entire first development sprint in two hours.”
-Director of Business Intelligence, same client

“We’ve been talking about how badly we need this particular analysis forever.  I can’t believe it – all this time we had the ability to just DO it, but didn’t know.”
-CEO, same client


Quite a Rush

It’s 5:45 am in Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport.  I’ve just flown overnight after two intense days at a client in California.  I have ninety minutes until my next flight.  I have not slept.

And what am I doing?  I’m walking – practically gliding – through the vast tunnels beneath the airport.  For long stretches I am the only human being present.  I have no interest in the shuttles, nor the moving walkways.  I’ve got too much energy to burn off.  I simply feel too GOOD to sit down, or even stand still.

Why do I feel so good?  Take another look at those quotes up top.  Pretty damn cool.  But I suspect that it’s hard to relate to why I was flying so high without a little more background.

And even more importantly, I want you to understand why and how PowerPivot will take you to similar places.

In the company of amazing people

If you read the quotes above, and your reaction is something like “Rob’s client didn’t know what they were doing, and Rob went in there and opened their eyes,” I need to clear some things up.  This is simply an amazing organization, made up of amazing people.

Creative.  Sharp.  Energetic.  Nimble.  Successful.  Irrepressible.  Open minded.  Those are the adjectives that come to mind when I think of these folks.  In an incredibly short time, they’ve built a VERY successful business.  The kind that makes me envious, to be honest.

These guys are rock stars.  They’ve achieved things that in many ways don’t even seem possible.  Movies are made about teams like this – you know, movies like The Social Network.  Or the Pirates of Silicon Valley.

I’ve always had a reasonably positive view of my own capabilities.  But for most of my career I’ve simply been a cog in a monstrous machine.  Only recently have I been experiencing this new vibe – one where I can drop in on a team like this one, sit down with the leadership, and have this kind of impact.  It’s humbling.

Did I say “humbling?”  OK… Forget what I just said Smile

PowerPivot Can Give You a Sense of Power But Not the Dr Evil Kind“It’s humbling” – that’s what you’re supposed to say at times like these.  But it just isn’t true.  Experiences like last week are the opposite of humbling.  “Humble” doesn’t generate a rush.  It doesn’t excite or invigorate.  No, what I was feeling early that morning was…  power.  Pure, amazing power.

But not power in the Dr. Evil, “rule the world” sense.  No, the power available to us here is simply one of significance, of impact.  The ability to affect things – much closer to the definition of “power” in physics than what you find in politics.

I could get used to this… but it’s a brief window in time

Back to the tunnels underneath Atlanta:  I started thinking where this could end up going.  In the next year, as PowerPivot’s reputation spreads further, will I (and people like me) be travelling the world, helping leaders of international businesses around the globe revolutionize their ability to “see” clearly?

It certainly is plausible, and no lie, that’s unbelievably exciting.  But then I came down from my cloud just a little:  this is going to be a brief window of opportunity (to be the teachers), and won’t last for long.  Remember that PowerPivot derives its real power not just from superior technology, but also from its accessibility.  It is something that empowers Excel pros, and will do so for literally millions of people.  We’re just in a transition phase.

To illustrate, imagine if we had no spreadsheets at all today (and no PowerPivot either), and suddenly, out of the blue, someone invented Excel.  Not even Excel 2010 – let’s say this first version had the feature set of Excel 97, and nothing like PowerPivot.  Can you imagine the change that would be in store for the world, as the spreadsheet began to work its way into the business culture for the first time?  Imagine that happening in a world where PC’s were already ubiquitous and turbocharged (like today) – not like the world that spreadsheets first entered (where PC’s were still quite rare, and woefully less powerful).  If you were one of the first to learn this new tech, you would be very much in demand.

That’s kinda how I view where we are.  Naturally, people like us, who are on the leading edge of this wave, we have a huge advantage.  But it’s temporary.  This is where humility returns.  Humility is a good thing – it keeps things in perspective and positions you better for the next round of change.  Our roles, for now, are simply to help spread this revolution.  I’m starting to understand just how BIG the revolution is going to be, and it’s thrilling.  It’s a limited window of change, though, so keep that in mind.

But boy, it’s going to be quite a ride.  For all of us.

Post Script:  A Hat tip to Mike

Who’s Mike?  Mike is the guy who had to sit next to me on my next flight, from Atlanta to Cleveland, and deal with my overly up-tempo and chatty mood (at 7 am).  At one point he suggested I include Dr. Evil in this post.  Which is, of course, about the best advice I could hope for.

Mike was coming to the end of an interesting trip of his own, returning from Brazil.  Mike’s company is one of the few American firms that still actually MAKES things.  Physical things.  And sells them not only in the US, but abroad.  Fascinating conversation, thanks Mike.

Oh, and Mike is a longtime Browns fan who was in the stands for both The Drive and The Fumble.  Mike, you deserve redemption, I hope you get it someday.  And there’s another Mike (Holmgren) who I hope is listening.

While we are on the topic of football…

Also last week, on the flight out to the west coast, I was exchanging emails with a guy who used to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.  Did you know that Hugh Millen is an Excel pro?  Of course you did, right?

Anyway, as a former player and current TV/radio analyst, Hugh obviously has a deep understanding of football.  His passion for numerical analysis sets him apart though, and suddenly even someone like me has common ground to discuss with him…  like PivotTable macros.

How cool is that?  Here’s a guy who has enormous “cred” in his field – a field that you don’t typically associate with business intelligence.  It’s not like he NEEDS to be diving into spreadsheets in order to be successful at what he does.  But he knows there is still a lot of additional value he can provide by looking deeper than what his trained eyes alone can tell him.  So he’s been an Excel pro for a long time, probably longer than me, and is now becoming a PowerPivot pro as well.

Moral:  It doesn’t matter what field you are in.  There’s opportunity lurking in the numbers.

More Posts in the Pipeline

Sorry about the lack of posts last week, there was a lot going on.  I already have a short technical post written for later this week, and there’s another in my head about “Excel circa 2002 versus Excel Today” that I hope to get written as well, so stay tuned.