Spreadsheet Models for Managers

Getting Access to Spreadsheet Models for Managers

If Spreadsheet Models for Managersyou use Excel to model businesses, business processes, or business transactions, this course will change your life. You’ll learn how to create tools for yourself that will amaze even you. Unrestricted use of this material is available in two ways.

As a stand-alone Web site
It resides on your computer, and you can use it anywhere. No need for Internet access.
At this Web site
If you have access to the Internet whenever you want to view this material, you can purchase on-line access. Unlimited usage. I’m constantly making improvements and you’ll get them as soon as they’re available.

To Order On Line

Order "Spreadsheet Models for Managers, on-line edition, one month" by credit card, for USD 69.95 each, using our secure server, and receive download instructions by return email.
Order "Spreadsheet Models for Managers, on-line edition, three months" by credit card, for USD 199.00 each, using our secure server, and receive download instructions by return email.
Order "Spreadsheet Models for Managers, downloadable hyperbook edition" by credit card, for USD 199.00 each, using our secure server, and receive download instructions by return email.

To Order by Mail

Make your check payable to Chaco Canyon Consulting, for the amount indicated:
  • For the download: USD 199.00
  • For access online for three months: USD 199.00
  • For access online for one month: USD 69.95
And send it to:
Chaco Canyon Consulting
700 Huron Avenue, Suite 19C
Cambridge, MA 02138

To use the course software you’ll need some other applications, which you very probably already have. By placing your order, you’re confirming that you have the software you need, as described on this site.

Student projects vary dramatically in quality. But mistakes of various kinds can happen to anyone or any team, and they aren’t always evident in the finished product that you can see in the Course Project Library. That’s what this page is for. We want to give you some indication of the kinds of mistakes that past project teams have tripped over, in the hope that you won’t repeat them.

mistakeWe want all your mistakes to be new ones we’ve never seen before. In that spirit, here are some of the most costly mistakes we’ve seen in past student projects.

1. Not understanding the requirements
Failure to understand basic concepts used in the requirements, such as the difference between a model and a tool, or the difference between a static model and a dynamic model, can be very expensive and frustrating. But missing even the tiny little requirements, such as file names, due dates, margins, and fonts can be expensive if you miss enough of them.
2. Tackling too big a problem
You’ll notice that we require only small numbers of input parameters, input streams, and output streams. If your project requires dozens and dozens of inputs and outputs, rethink it.
3. Failing to understand basic concepts
Do you know the difference between a stream and a parameter? Do you know when to use names for ranges, and when not to bother? Do you know when to use array formulas and when not to?
4. Doing research
This isn’t a research project. Don’t try to make your project realistic by doing research on the actual, realistic values of inputs. Make plausible estimates.
5. Scenarios differ in disallowed ways
We want your project to be an investigation of a question by comparing two scenarios. The scenarios must differ, but only in the values of their inputs. The two scenario workbooks must be identical in every other respect.
6. Failing to understand what an input is
Students have submitted projects in which the cells of input parameters or the cells of input streams contain formulas that calculate values, possibly depending on other cells. Cells that contain formulas cannot possibly be inputs. Input cells must be able to accept user input. That is, they must contain numbers, text, TRUE, FALSE, or be blank.
7. Referring to ranges by cell reference, row numbers, or column letters in Word documents
In documents, especially the Final Report and the Usage and Maintenance Guide, some students have used cell references, row numbers, or column letters to refer to ranges on worksheets. This is an extremely unwise practice, because changes in the model itself necessitate changes in the documents, which is a source of maintenance cost and errors. Do not do this. Instead, use row captions or column headings to help the reader of the document locate the range you are discussing. You can even insert text in cells, or use other formatting techniques, to indicate sections of the worksheet to further help the reader, and simplify the task of documenting the worksheet.
8. Referring to ranges in documents by the Excel name
This practice is also problematic, but this time the issue is usability. Unless the Excel name of a range is actually contained in a nearby cell, the user cannot see the name. Knowing the name is helpful in navigation, because the reader can use the name box menu to navigate to the range in question. It’s OK to provide the name for that purpose, but you still need to provide a visual cue and include it in the document.
9. Writing the Usage and Maintenance Guide last
Certainly, after the project is complete, you want to ensure that the Usage and Maintenance Guide is in alignment with what you actually built. That’s why the Usage and Maintenance Guide really can’t be finished before the model itself. But starting the Usage and Maintenance Guide early gives you a “map” that you can follow as you build the model. If you don’t start the Usage and Maintenance Guide until after the model is complete, you’re at greater risk of expanding the scope of your project as you go along, because you won’t have the source of discipline that a good Usage and Maintenance Guide provides.
10. Doing too much work
The project is worth one-fourth of your grade. That’s equal to one-third of the total credit you get for homework. Use this as a guide when you estimate how many labor hours your team has available to spend on your project.
11. Not tracking time spent
The time you spend on your project is a good indicator of how effective your team is. One reason we want you to report the time you spend is that we believe knowing how much effort you have spent will help you manage your team. Track your time.
12. Changing the project without approval
If you make any substantial changes in your project that contradict anything, absolutely anything, contained in your proposal, you should contact one of the staff and obtain approval. Think of us as your “customers” — we are “paying” you to produce something, and you aren’t free to change what you’re producing without our agreement. This is for your protection, because it helps you avoid making changes that would not be in alignment with project requirements.
13. Procrastinating
We’ve left this item for last. The course project is a lot of work. You won’t be able to complete it if you procrastinate until a week before the deadline. Get started early and work steadily. Make a schedule and compare your progress to that schedule as you go along. See “Maintaining Forward Momentum on Your Project” for some tips. Actually, once you’ve made enough progress that you can see your project start to work, you’ll probably get so involved in it that it will be a lot of fun. Enjoy!

Last Modified: Wednesday, 27-Apr-2016 04:15:26 EDT

Inspect Your Project Early

Many believe that the main benefit of spreadsheet inspections is that they locate issues so they can be fixed. Certainly they do accomplish that. But spreadsheet inspections, when performed early enough and often enough, can actually prevent problems. And preventing problems is certainly more valuable than locating them.

We hope that you’ll apply what you learn about spreadsheet inspections when you work on your projects. If you’re working in a team, review your project schedule and decide when would be advantageous times to insert an inspection or two. If you’re working alone, ask someone else who’s working alone if they would be willing to inspect your project in exchange for your inspecting theirs.

Since we don’t grade on a curve, helping someone else doesn’t hurt you. Inspection exchanges raise the quality of both projects — and both grades. Whatever you do, don’t wait until the end to do your inspections.

Do You Know About the Project Library?

We’ve collected examples of course projects students have submitted over the years. They’re stored in the Course Project Library.

Because we change the project requirements every year, the projects in the library aren’t necessarily precise examples of what you’ll be doing, but they do give you some insight into the kind of thing we’re looking for.

Most important, in the Final Report is a section called Lessons Learned. If you take time to read the Lessons Learned from these projects, you’ll be able to avoid the troubles many of your predecessors encountered. There’s little point in repeating the mistakes of others, so take a look at their lessons learned.