One month after posting Small Data & Parvenu Analysts, I taught a 5-hour Excel workshop at the AMP Conference. 12 students signed up, and some dragged themselves in as if they could no longer avoid their Excel medicine. But I appreciated each and every one of them, because they had options to take courses that were more central to their job titles. The volunteer coordinator could have spent 5 hours in another workshop learning about recruiting volunteers; the content strategist could have learned about a new social media platform. But they decided to invest 5 hours in learning a tool that they all constantly use: Excel.
Near the end, one of the students posed a question this way:
I’m a volunteer coordinator and we sometimes set daily goals. Is it possible for Excel to automatically show a picture of happy Drake if we’re meeting our goals; and a picture of sad Drake if we’re behind?
That question was electrifying!
- He was thinking in terms of integration and automation of Excel’s features. He had gone beyond dry formulas and was asking if data updates in one area can manipulate pictures in another area.
- More than just getting the math right, he was asking if fun could be injected with visuals.
- He asked the question is it possible? rather than assuming that it’s not possible.
That kind of thinking can set a parvenu analyst up for success. To be fair, the doing of the task may be too complex to make the possibility worth pursuing, but often, the answer is a very easy yes.
I remember someone who was used to re-typing dozens of names each month because of a report that sent new data to him in all-caps. He’d been doing this for a year until he discovered the PROPER function which puts text into “proper” formatting. He almost fell out of his chair when he saw that PROPER instantly fixed something that he’d accepted as an ongoing source of misery.
Sad Drake or Happy Drake?
Now what about the student who asked if Excel could automatically show happy or sad Drake based on volunteer performance?
I think ‘Drake’ is in reference to the rapper Drake. Even if there’s another Drake, the answer is “YES!!!”
As a result of the student’s question, I created this video, Select and Image Based on a Cell Value.
I’ve also implemented that feature in something I call a Naughty-Nice-Ometer. It measures if children are being naughty or nice, and the number of days until Christmas. If a child has negative points, the Naughty-Nice-Ometer shows a picture of Krampus. If the child is being nice, a picture of Santa Claus is showing.
You can see a demo of the Naughty-Nice-Ometer in this video: Excel Tools for Planning Christmas.
For a team that’s relying on accurate data, fixing all-caps and adding pictures of Drake and Santa Claus aren’t exactly hardcore analyses. What’s most important, however, is the thought process: asking the questions to get access to working smarter and generating easy-to-understand (and creative) summaries.
When we find people who can approach data from this mindset, it doesn’t matter if they’ve had extensive experience working with data or Excel. They can learn the how-to. Those are the people we want in charge of our data. You’ll know it when that picture of happy Drake is on a spreadsheet, letting all the world know that the volunteers are meeting their goals.