November 13, 2018

Excel Is Finally Keeping Up With the Joneses

Accounting Excel 2019

Two years have passed since I wrote a controversial post about ditching Excel.

And as fate would have it, no one listened. We are as attached to Excel as ever. Maybe we like dealing with unruly and unresponsive files?

But, those rumors about the AICPA integrating Excel into the CPA Exam have finally become a reality as of April 1, 2018. It’s about time. The CPA Exam is hard enough without dealing with a subpar off-brand spreadsheet tool. Accountants should be brand snobs about something as important as the CPA Exam.

And later this year, we’re gearing up for a new edition of Microsoft Office; announced in September 2017 and scheduled to be released some time in mid-2018.

We’ve got some exciting features to look forward to, according to Thurrott:

The new data types, powered by Microsoft’s Knowledge Graph, allows users to embed rich geographic and financial data within their spreadsheets. For example, the new Geography data type allows users to get key information about a country, city, state, postcode, area, or continent. They can easily get access to information such as the population, political leaders, location, time zones, etc. without having to manually search them on the web. This data can be then used to take things to the next level with Excel’s existing filtering systems and rich charts.

I guess some of these features are not that revolutionary since the ticker symbol lookups have been available on Google Sheets for a few years. Excel wasn’t keeping up until now.

Another new feature includes the ability for smart data to auto-refresh, auto-identify, and detect if newly entered data might be a country or a stock symbol, just like it does with dates. For accountants, this feature has the most realistic applications for keeping spreadsheets consistent and up-to-date without relying on any other type of database software or VBA add-in.

Other features that look interesting, as reported by Abacus blog after the announcement of Office 2019, are:

  • A fancy new “Insight” tool that auto-generates interesting graphs and charts that can be used for decision making and don’t require much skill to create.
  • Import for machine learning algorithms that could aid in detecting anomalies in large datasets. I anticipate accounting firms will be excited about the idea of making use of Excel automation to find exceptions and high-risk transactions. I also see this being the start of the trend toward 100% audit sampling and transaction testing. Accountants are less scared to learn new features in Excel so it makes sense that buy-in will be easier. I agree with the Abacus blogger that “Excel 2019 might ultimately mark the moment when AI fully democratized for the business world.” PwC’s Assurance Transformation Leader Bill Brennan was talking about 100% transaction testing as result of artificial intelligence two years ago.
  • Custom data types that go beyond established categories like those we discussed above. “Microsoft offered an example: if you tag a column ‘Company Names,’ Excel will recognize the dataset to be a series of companies for which it can search Bing to find additional data.”

It’s all a big step forward for Excel and makes some of the more robust software solutions I mentioned two years ago less of a necessity going forward. The one huge drawback is that Office 2019 will only work on Windows 10 — that is unless you subscribe to Microsoft Office 365. But, most people are on Windows 10 by now, aren’t they?

Image: iStock/Rawpixel

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Elijah Watt Sells Award Recipients Make the Rest of Us Want to Puke

The AICPA announced the winners of the Elijah Watt Sells awards yesterday. For you mere mortals, this is an award for the 10 highest cumulative scorers on the CPA exam.
Glancing over the recipients we notice that two Big 4 firms (KPMG and Deloitte) enslave employ five of the recipients. A couple of recipients work in industry and a few more work for smaller, local firms.
This leads to the obvious question of why the hell P. Dubya and E&Y were totally shut out? Grant Thornton and BDO were also blanked. Are the honchos at the Radio Station and Big D giving the worker bees more time to study? Are P. Dubs, E&Y, et al. cutting out the bonuses for passing and thus destroying anyone’s motivation for passing? Are those of you looking to pass already choosing between eating and sleeping (and maybe sex) so studying just isn’t happening? Sells was a Big D founder so maybe the whole thing is rigged? Thoughts anyone?
Oh and congratulate the recipients while you’re at it (without vomiting on them).

We’re Here to Listen to Your CPA Exam Stories Because We’re Solid Like That

Cpa_exam.jpgOkay, so the purpose of the Elijah Watt Sells post was not to make any of you feel like you’re lesser accountants. We just figured that a good portion of you were hung over today and the story of 10 individuals that got vomit-worthy scores on the CPA exam would get you past the nausea and running to the bathroom to lose that 3 am breakfast.
Now that you’re feeling better, we want to appeal to the rest of you. We want your CPA exam horror stories. Not because we want you to send you running back into the bathroom to sob in the stall. Not because some people we know passed all four sections in one sitting and don’t have any good stories. No, no. We want your stories because we here to listen to you. Besides, they’re probably funny now anyway. Aren’t they? Even if you’re still mortified or pissed off, this your opportunity to vent about it.
Sooooo, did you run out of gas on the way to the exam site? Did your computer crash with 10 minutes to go and you had to re-take the entire exam? We’re you caught cheating?!? Or watching porn? Impress us…