When spreadsheetsfirst became widely available in the early 1980s, it spawned a revolution in teaching. What previously could only be done with arcane software and large-scale computing was now available to the common man, on a desktop. Also, before spreadsheets, most substantial analytical work was done outside the classroom where the tools were; spreadsheets and personal computers moved the work into the classroom. Not only did it change how the data analysis curriculum was taught, but it also empowered students to venture out on their own to explore new ways to use the tools. I can’t tell you how many phone calls, office visits, and/or emails I have received in my teaching career from ecstatic students crowing about what they have just done with a spreadsheet model.
Spreadsheets have become as commonplace as calculators in data analysis and decision making. In this chapter, we explore the value and importance of building decision-making models with Excel. We also consider the characteristics that make spreadsheets useful, not only for ourselves, but for others with whom we collaborate.
As with any tool, learning to use the tool effectively requires carefully conceived planning and practice; thus, we will terminate the chapter with an example of a poorly planned spreadsheet that isrehabilitatedinto a shining example of what a spreadsheetcanbe. Some texts provide you with very detailed and in-depth explanations of the intricacies of Excel; this text opts to concentrate on the types of analysis and model building you can perform with Excel.
The principal goal of this book is to provide you with an Excel-centric approach to solving problems and to do so withrelatively simpleandabbreviatedexamples. In other words, this book is for the individual that shouts,“I’m not interested in a 900-page text, full of difficult-torememberCtl-Shift-F4-R key stroke shortcuts! What I need is a good and instructive example of analytics, so I can solve this problem before I leave the office tonight.”.
Finally, for many texts the introductory chapter is a“throw-away”to be read casually before getting to substantial material in the chapters that follow, but that is not the case for this chapter. It sets the stage for some important guidelines for constructing worksheets and workbooks that will be essential throughout the remaining chapters. I urge you to read this material carefully and consider the content seriously. Let’s begin by considering the following encounter between two graduate school classmates of the class of 1990. In it, we begin to answer the question that decisionmakers face as Excel becomes their standard for analysis and collaboration—How can I quickly and effectively learn the capabilities of this powerful tool, Excel?
This book is targeted at the student or practitioner who is looking for asingle introductory Excel-based resource that covers three essential business skills—data analysis, business modeling, and simulation. I have successfully used this material with undergraduates, MBAs, and executive MBAs and in executive education programs. For my students, the book has been the main teaching resource for both semester and half-semester long courses. The examples used in the books are sufficientlyflexible to guide teaching goals in many directions. For executives, the book has served as a compliment to classroom lectures, as well as an excellent postprogram, self-study resource. Finally, I believe that it will serve practitioners, like that former student I met in Cincinnati, who have the desire and motivation to refurbish their understanding of data analysis, modeling, and simulation concepts through self-study.