Modern Excel:  Is it Just Power Pivot?

So we started this User Group…

…and, you know, it’s a real thing.  We’ve got active chapters now in five US cities, a sense of “blueprint” for spreading it rapidly to many more cities worldwide, and nearly 700 members in the LinkedIn group.  (What, you haven’t joined yet?  Darth Formulus finds your lack of faith… disturbing.  A problem easily remedied yes?)

But wouldn’t you know it.  All you analytical types started asking “hey, what IS Modern Excel, exactly?  What is considered ‘fair game’ to discuss at meetings?”  “And what the heck is the point of this LinkedIn group – you’ve made virtually no announcements whatsoever.”

Ambiguity?  That will never satisfy humans with Compulsive Data Crunching Disease.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I thrive on this sort of thing.

As an aside, constantly being forced to be precise (by my peers) at Microsoft is one of the most formative and useful experiences of my life to date.  My first 22 years on the planet had been fueled strictly by Instinctive Conviction – which in hindsight is merely another form of “coasting.”  But I’ve since come to believe that if you cannot communicate your opinions effectively, not only will their impact be forever limited, but actually, even YOU don’t understand what you THINK you do.  Sloppy communication often masks sloppy thinking.  22-year old Rob arrived in Redmond with an ample supply of both.  It was as much fun as a multi-year waterboarding, but they straightened me out.

Excel 2007 Desktop is a BIG Dividing Line

Let’s start by “ruling out” a massive swath of possibilities.  Sometimes it’s easiest to start by saying what something is NOT, and this is one such case.

Here’s the acid test:  if a topic is something you could do with Excel 2007 desktop, it’s not Modern, and does not belong in the group.


Excel 2007 Desktop:  Anything You Could Do Here is NOT Modern

So, here are some Examples that are NOT modern, even when you use them in Excel 2013:

  1. Traditional pivots
  2. VLOOKUP, SUMIF, etc.
  3. Interactive solutions driven by VBA Macros

OK, So What DOES Qualify?

Here are some examples of Modern:

  1. Power Pivot, Power Query, Power View, etc. (the “Power Star” family)
  2. Excel Web App, Excel Services – “Web Excel” (especially for publishing)
  3. Topics that support the above – Designing Good Dashboards, for instance
  4. Leveraging Modern Excel for Career Growth, Org Growth, etc.

Hybrids Are VERY MUCH Modern!


Yes.  We Like Hybrids.

Practitioners of Modern Excel know that the Network Effect of Excel is a huge part of its strength, and therefore a huge part of OUR strength as professionals.

So we would never, NEVER, “rule out” techniques and approaches that blended Excel’s rich “traditional” features with its newer features.  It’s what separates us from animals after all.

With that in mind, here are some examples of Modern Hybrids:

  1. Chart tricks that are used in concert with Power Pivot (SUPER relevant!)
  2. Using VBA to automate the creation of Power Pivot reports
  3. Using in-grid formulas in concert with slicers and measures.
  4. In other words, features that existed in 2007 desktop and earlier ARE encouraged and applauded in our reindeer games (i.e. at our meetings), as long as they are used to “improve” something Modern.  They just can’t be the FOCUS of a topic.

How About Something More Poetic?

The answers above read like a checklist.  If that’s a bit too OCD for you, great.  Let’s change gears.

The reason we chose the name Modern Excel is because we’re talking about a New Way.  A Better Way.  You know, a new world:

  1. Where we spend far LESS time on repetitive, tedious tasks.
  2. Where we spend far MORE time thinking!
  3. Where we spend as much time formulating better questions as we spend answering questions.
  4. Where slight changes in our needs often require a few seconds of work, rather than a few days.
  5. Where our most impactful creations (our most insightful workbooks) don’t become anchors that we must drag around with us until we change jobs.
  6. Where we see, every day, the impact of our efforts.  And we feel that rewarding glow.
  7. Where others see the impact of our efforts.  And we see that reflected in our tangible rewards.

Questions?  Comments?  Outright Disagreement?

This is a “living definition.”  Always open for refinement.  So bring the comments Smile