Spreadsheet Models for Managers

Tedium, Boredom, Wasted Time, Wasted Work, Errors, Recalls, Data Re-entry, Data Re-Re-Entry. The lives of spreadsheet modeler and the lives of the modeler's customers aren't pretty. The tragedy is that most of the pain, waste, and missed deadlines are so unnecessary.

Spreadsheets are wonderful tools. They help us track what is, figure out what was, and they help us predict what will be. Despite the popularity of spreadsheets, despite their wide use, and despite our familiarity with them, most of us receive only a fraction of the benefit we could derive from our work with spreadsheets. Most of us can benefit from using some simple yet sophisticated techniques that remain relatively little known. In the Spreadsheet Models for Managers Workshop, participants learn:

  • How to manage spreadsheet development projects
  • How to build high-reliability and low-maintenance models of businesses and business processes using spreadsheets
  • How to exploit sophisticated mathematical techniques to reduce modeling errors and maintenance problems.

The overall philosophy is that you shouldn't need a Ph.D. to create a high-value business model that lets you predict the performance of a business process. A simple spreadsheet model is probably good enough for most business purposes, given the rapid pace of change in today's markets. But when you do make a model, it should be easy to understand and maintain, and it should be right.

This workshop is based on a course called Spreadsheet Models for Managers, which I began developing at the Harvard Extension School in 1993, and which I taught there for 21 years, until 2014. At Harvard, and wherever I've taught the course, I've had the benefit of questions, praise, complaints, wishes, and criticism from hundreds students.

Workshop Structure

I can customize the structure of the workshop to your needs. I recommend a sequence of two-hour meetings, with homework interspersed, for maximum learning opportunity. But it can also be formatted as a sequence of full-day or half-day workshops for maximum cost-effectiveness.


Over twenty-four hours of high-value course content is available. Choose the topics most valuable to you:

  • Accumulations and derivations: running sums, running differences
  • Relative and absolute references: what the heck are they good for?
  • Operations on references: unions, intersections, and compound ranges
  • Named parameters, parameter blocks: save time and reduce maintenance costs
  • Drilling down and rolling up: tools for doing either one effectively
  • Array formulas: manipulate whole ranges, not single cells
  • Matrix multiplication: do in one row what others do in twenty
  • Safety margins and crowding: save money by managing your resources
  • Circular reference headaches: how to resolve them
  • Convolution: simplify calculations involving time variation
  • Use convolution for multiple lease events
  • Terminology, styles, and tips for effective charts
  • Using charts to catch errors in models
  • Key practices for organizations that use spreadsheet technology on an enterprise scale
  • Formal technical reviews of spreadsheets: reduce errors and educate your team
  • Writing macros using Visual Basic for Applications
  • Inventory modeling: Economic Order Quantity (EOQ)
  • Purchasing decisions in the context of volume discounting
  • Modeling waiting lines
  • The Fast Food Drive-Thru: How long should the driveway be?

Target audience

Managers of businesses and business units who want to learn best practices of business modeling. Modelers who want to hone their skills and learn new tools.

Workshop requirements

This is a hands-on workshop. To get maximum benefit, each participant should bring their own laptop computer, and their own copy of Microsoft ® Excel 2010 or later. Software specific to the course content is provided.

For more about my spreadsheet consulting and training services, visit SpreadsheetAce.com.

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