Today’s post was written by Jared Spataro, general manager for Office.
Excel is a much-loved productivity tool that has attracted a strong and passionate fanbase over the years. This user community drives many grassroots activities ranging from local conferences to global competitions like ModelOff, the Financial Modeling World Championship. And this engagement is well deserved—people use Excel across industries, roles, and scenarios to do amazing things. In fact, Excel ranks as one of the most requested skills among employers, based on 25 million job postings, according to Burning Glass Technologies.
All of us on the Excel product team really enjoy getting out and spending time with the community. Each and every interaction proves to be a treasure trove of learning. We see firsthand how the latest features are being used and, more importantly, find gaps and come up with great ideas for new features. Last week, members of the Excel team attended the ModelOff conference, and we’d like to share a few highlights from the event, plus a few recent features shaped by the community.
The ModelOff conference is an annual event where Excel fans from all over the world gather to improve their Excel skills in topics like Advanced Excel, Business and Financial Analysis, and Financial Modeling. This year’s event was held in New York City, and in addition to networking, training, and skill development, this two-day event also gave a select few individuals the chance to compete in the event’s annual Financial Modeling World Championship. The 16 finalists competed against thousands of highly skilled Excel fans across the world for the honor of attending the New York City competition, which includes the opportunity to share over $50,000 in awards and prizes.
Our team attended the event and we were excited to congratulate this year’s championship winner, Alvin Woon, director for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, for his superb work. “Taking part in ModelOff was a humbling experience,” noted Woon. “After seeing all the unique and amazing ways other competitors use Excel to solve the same problem, you realize that winning the competition doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best—any of the finalists could have won.”
Winners of ModelOff 2017 (Michael Jarman, Alvin Woon, and Willem Gerritsen).
Innovation in Excel that our users love
Also, at the event, we were excited to see that many of the attendees were actively using some recently added features. Here are a few of the latest additions that seemed to really connect with attendees.
Real-time collaboration—As with other Office 365 apps, you and your coworkers can securely work simultaneously within an Excel file from any device (mobile, desktop, and web). This allows you to know who else is working with you in a spreadsheet, see where they’re working, and view changes automatically within seconds, reducing the time it takes to collect feedback and eliminating the need to maintain multiple versions of a file. Live, in-app presence indicators through Skype for Business make it easy to connect with available coworkers in the moment.
Work simultaneously with coworkers in the same workbook.
Powerful data modeling—Get & Transform is one of Excel’s most powerful features, enabling you to search for data sources, make connections, and shape your data to meet specific analysis needs. Excel can connect to data sitting in the cloud, in a service, or stored locally. You can then combine different data sets from these sources into a single Data Model for a unique, unified view. Plus, you can create a Data Model to import millions of rows of data into Excel—keeping your analysis in one place.
Import data from a variety of internal and external sources.
Insightful visualizations—Excel is an inherently visual tool, giving you new perspectives through a variety of charts and graphs. We continue to enhance visualization in Excel—with geographical maps and waterfall charts—to provide easier analysis and a better, more impactful way to share insights across your company.
Dashboard creation and sharing—Power BI is the cloud-based data visualization tool that allows you to create and publish dashboards. We intentionally designed Power BI and Excel to work together, so you can surface the most relevant insights for the task at hand. Excel data can be imported into Power BI, while Power BI reports can be analyzed in Excel for new perspectives. You can then easily share these dashboards and insights with others in your company.
Easily publish Excel data to Power BI to visualize data in different ways.
Built-in extensibility—Like other Office 365 applications, Excel can be customized to meet the specific needs of your company. Excel’s rich ecosystem of add-ins and other tools can help you work with data in more relevant ways. Plus, the Excel platform is flexible enough for IT admins or Microsoft partners to develop custom solutions.
When we look back over the last few years of innovation in Excel and the various ideas that were sparked by enthusiasts in the Excel community, we are truly grateful. Excel is getting richer every day thanks to the love and deep insights that the community brings—thank you.
For those of you looking to get the latest in Excel, we encourage you to visit the Office 365 website and get the latest for your organization or yourself. And if you want to stay connected to Excel and its community, read Excel blog posts, and send us ideas and suggestions for the next version of Excel through UserVoice. You can also follow Excel on Facebook and Twitter.