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Kit Lloyd

I followed your link and read your paper regarding spreadsheet design and organization. My current job, which comprises equal parts accounting and financial/risk analysis, revolves around maintaining a large database of information in Excel for a credit card processor in Utah. When I arrived, I was tasked with organizing the information for thousands of clients into a format that needed to be both legible and versatile. As I read your paper, I recognized elements that I had used to accomplish my task, along with a few others that I hadn't thought of. Despite how much I used Excel in college and now in my vocation, I can't point to any specific person/class/instance where these skills were taught or addressed at length. Considering how much employers utilize Excel (and your paper mentions this), it's surprising to me that this specific issue isn't given more attention at the university level. Even now, I find myself, almost subconsciously, critiquing my colleagues' work in Excel.

Dave Tufte

I'm glad you found the paper useful. You can find a lot more stuff like that if you go to my faculty site ( and browse through the old classes for ECON 6100 sections. Those are usually in the spring or summer.

Perhaps you never asked if there was a spreadsheet focused class when you were here. I did 8 sections of ECON 2500 over 3 years where we covered some of that stuff. Plus I could have signed you in to ECON 6100 if you'd asked.

Those classes were there, but they've developed a reputation as being "ewww ... that's hard" classes.

So, do you maintain this database in Excel?

Bryan Allen

Well done Dr. Tufte. I reference you often when dealing with excel. I tell colleagues of mine about how one of my professors was an "Excel Wizard" and I could hardly keep up. You taught me so much and I wish I would have taken advantage or your expertise more often.

Kit Lloyd

True, I never specifically inquired into classes to improve Excel skills. I guess I just didn't realize until getting out into the job force how utilized it really was. I had assumed most major financial firms utilized their own proprietary software.

The database in its current form uses about ten separate tabs, with the primary tab being being 15 columns across and 4600+ rows long, containing information about the client and their processing history. I've tried to keep it as simplistic as possible, but the data has outgrown the practical boundaries of Excel. It really needs its own dedicated database software.

Dave Tufte

Bryan: I'm not the only Excel wiz around here. Craft, Christensen or Barnes could have done the same thing. And the real Excel wiz is Neil Walter who does some adjunct classes at Dixie.

But, I'm glad you learned a lot. You were great to have in class!

Dave Tufte

Kit: you know, I'm starting to here that a lot from recent graduates. No one ever told them they'd be using Excel all the time. I kind of wonder who students are getting their information from.

As to your Excel file, yeah, that's big enough where you might want to put in a database program. Get help if you do; it's not or the faint of heart.

FWIW: Powell and Baker's Management Science text has a chapter with some pointers on dealing with databases that really shouldn't be in Excel, but are.

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