Renewed as an MVP

I’m pleased to say that I received the email this morning to let me know that I’ve been renewed as an MVP for another year.

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This is my 10th Microsoft Excel MVP award, and there have been a lot of changes in that time.  Although I do provide my opinions during my technical articles, typically I don’t often create blog posts that are solely introspective or opinion pieces.   With this being a milestone for me, I thought I’d do one today.

Some of the highlights since I’ve been an MVP:

  • We’ve seen four versions of (Windows) Excel since I was awarded:  Excel 2007, 2010, 2013 and now 2016.
  • Excel online pioneered as a “free for everyone service” (which you can access at www.onedrive.com)
  • Office 365 was released, and Microsoft is pushing hard to make this the new model for how you purchase Office in future.
  • Excel for iOS and Android hit the scene.  (iPhone was in it’s infancy back in 2005.)
  • Power Pivot was released – first as a free download for Excel 2010 (Microsoft did free?), then a second free iteration for Excel 2010, before finally becoming integrated into Excel 2013 and up.
  • Power Query was released, again as a free download for Excel 2010 AND 2013 (not only the current, but the past version?), experiencing MONTHLY updates (rather than major versions only) before being integrated into Excel 2016.
  • Power Query is continuing to get updates even after Excel 2016’s release, meaning that we’ve got upgrades continuing to be provided for 3 versions of Excel for the first time ever.

If you’d have asked me to predict any of that back in October 2005, there’s no way that I could have.  Whether you agree with them all or not, these changes have been revolutionary for both business intelligence in Excel, as well as the ability to connect from anywhere to get your work done.  (Or feel guilty about not getting it done!)

Of course, not all of these have been without flaws or problems.  These are just my opinions, but…

  • The pioneering of the Ribbon in Excel 2007 without a way to customize it was a disaster that should never have happened.  Microsoft was so focused on “their” new user interface that they didn’t even want to hear that it was less efficient and punished power users efficiency.  So much so that I wrote a book on it.  Thankfully, the product teams listened eventually, and we saw that change in Office 2010.
  • Office 365 has been met with confusion and angst. I think there’s been a couple of reasons for this.  The first is that they’re pushing a new subscription model, conflicting with over 30 years of Microsoft’s habitual model where we were able to buy once and “own” the product.  The second is that they’ve done a poor job of explaining that the Office 365 service is actually a bundle of products in many cases, not JUST your Office license.  I use Office 365 to host my email and even have a Sharepoint site.  There is no way that I could afford to run and maintain my own email/Sharepoint servers, and last time I checked - based on a 3 year update cycle – the cost was about the same to subscribe vs re-buy anyway.  Overall, I think the subscription is actually the right move, it’s just going to take time for people to get used to and embrace it.  It’s this model that will allow Microsoft to justify giving us constant and frequent updates.
  • Re-branding of the “Power Add-ins” was a huge mistake.  When Power Pivot, Power Query, Power View and Power Map were released, I met MANY high end Excel pros who celebrated that Microsoft had FINALLY recognized their role, and was releasing Power Tools aimed at them.  (For reference, I know the Excel team DOES recognize the value of power users, this was simply the perception of those I met.)  Now we’re seeing these tools re-branded down to “less intimidating” names: Power Query in Excel 2016 has basically had it’s identity removed, Power Map is now 3D maps, and Power View has been hidden away without a default place in the Ribbon.  I can’t say how much it frustrates me that there is a constant need to dumb down the interface and pretend that Excel is easy.  It’s not, and the team at Microsoft that controls the branding needs to recognize this.  The Excel pros that drive the majority of business intelligence need both the tools and the respect for what they do.  There is a vast amount of the program that is perfectly accessible to the 80% who use 20% of the program.  Let’s put some focus on the 20% that drive the majority of business intelligence world wide.

Now, having said all that, I want to point out that overall I’m really happy with where Excel has gone.  The Power products were real game changes for me.  So much so that I quit my day job in May to focus on ExcelGuru Consulting Inc, primarily on providing training services to help people get the most out of Excel.  We’ve got some great Excel courses available at GoSkills, and of course our awesome Power Query Training Workshop which will blow your mind.

Over the past 10 years I’ve learned that the Excel team is not just a faceless group of folks working in isolation from the real world.  I was very much of this opinion the first time I made a trip to Redmond… (I was newly minted, and we’d just been given the Ribbon in Excel 2007, so that will give you an idea of my mindset.)  In fact, as I’ve learned over the past 10 years, the Excel team are actually a collection of SUPER passionate people who LOVE Excel, and want it to be the best it can be.  I have a huge respect for all of them.  I count myself very fortunate to be in a place where I get to go meet with them annually and provide feedback, much of which (combined with that of my MVP colleagues) has influenced many different features for the better.

One last thing that makes this program so amazing is that the MVP award gives many of my colleagues a reason to gather in one place annually.  I’ll never forget walking into my first summit and being introduced to the Excel MVPs that had made the trip… the names of legends that I’d been learning from.  And the welcome from them as they calmly just pointed out that hero-worship wasn’t allowed, as I was just one of them.  So odd, humbling and empowering.  Over the past 10 years I’ve made a lot of friends whom I’ve met in Redmond at the summit, and been able to fly around the world to meet even more.  It’s been just fantastic. The summit is the highlight of my year, for the simple reason that I get to go and hang out with people who truly understand me.

I have no idea where the next 10 years will take us, but I’m excited to see it unfold.

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