Spreadsheets

Jilted Girlfriend Has Totally Had It With Cheap Accountant Boyfriend and His Stupid Spreadsheet

This is why your firm advises against hooking up with a fellow accountant.

How to Turn Off Error Checking in Excel

Ed. note: this is third in an ongoing series to help you make the most out of Excel setting-by-setting. If you have a specific Excel demon to slay, you can get in touch for our resident white knight and Excel-slayer David Ringstrom to help you out. If you’ve implemented the changes that I’ve recommended in […]

Use AutoRecover in Excel to Save Your Spreadsheet From Yourself

Ed. note: this is second in an ongoing series to help you make the most out of Excel setting-by-setting. If you have a specific Excel demon to slay, you can get in touch for our resident white knight and Excel-slayer David Ringstrom to help you out.   In Part 1 of this series I noted […]

Has Microsoft Excel Ruined the World?

This isn't a breaking news story or anything but since our Google Alert for "Microsoft Excel" is filed in the same folder as "Lotus Notes," we sort of didn't get right on this story when it came out earlier this month. Thankfully most of you were drinking yourselves into a post-busy season coma and probably […]

Going Concern March Madness: The Busy Season Survival Final — Booze vs. Excel, There Can Be Only One

Finally, the champions of the two Busy Season Survival regions — Food & Bevvie and Tech — will meet to crown the ultimate winner of GCMMBSSF&BvsT. It's been a memorable tournament unless you've been committed to Team Booze in practice as well as voting. From coffee's disappointing performance to an inspired run by Email to the exciting […]

The Very First Microsoft Excel Ad Was Even More Clairvoyant Than Anyone Could Have Known

Human beings spend, on average, a third of their lifetime sleeping. They spend six total years eating, four years cleaning the house and a little over a year on the toilet.  If only someone would do a study to determine how many years the average spreadsheet jockey spends with their nose buried in multiple Excel […]

What Can You Expect to Make at a Big 4 Firm Over a 15 Year Period?

It’s mid-January, which means that at some point in the next four to six weeks or so, you’ll say to yourself, “I don’t get paid enough to do this shit.” And you might be right! But the good news is starting salaries for accountants keep going up. If you’re simply annoyed with your current boss/lunch/life […]

Do Regional Firm Accountants Have Better Excel Skills Than Their Big 4 Counterparts?

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

I was having a discussion with a colleague concerning the Excel skills in industry versus public accounting. We agreed that, generally speaking and based on surveys of class participants in our respective Excel CPE classes, industry users are more advanced than public accounting users. Within public accounting, regional firm users are more advanced than local and Big 4 users. Why is that?

We had one computer for about 150 professional staff when I started out in Big 8 public accounting oh so long ago. Back then we were the cutting edge in spreadsheet use. We were consulting with our clients on how to use Visicalc to increase productivity and reduce errors. So how did the Big 4 apparently slide to the bottom of the scale?

Theory number one holds that the Big 4 does all their training from within. They take someone who has perceived advanced skills, and use that person to teach everyone else what they know. The problem is that the in-house trainer may not know some of the advanced features in Excel that would be useful to the group. The trainer may only know slightly more than everyone else. My own experience with selling Excel to a Big 4 firm is that they feel it would be nice to know more about Excel, but it’s not imperative to the job. Rather it is better to focus CPE resources on IFRS or the latest tax code changes.

Theory number two says that associates in the Big 4 are focused in on their in-house proprietary audit software which doesn’t allow incorporating new ideas into the audit process like pivot tables or form control objects. Stick to the audit program because there is no room in the budget to experiment with Excel.

Now that I’m done ragging on the Excel skill level in the Big 4 remember I said at the beginning of the post “generally speaking” and I know there are excellent Excel users in the Big 4. I just haven’t met them yet.

PwC’s New Compensation Structure Gets the Spreadsheet It Deserves

As you know, PwC marched out a new compensation structure earlier this month and it’s been the subject of much interpretation, gnashing of teeth and even a fair amount of rejoicing. Of course, a complete analysis of this new structure would not be complete without the magic of Excel and lucky for you, a reader has taken the time to put some spreadsheet wizardy on it.

Here’s our tipster:

[Here] is an analysis of the new PwC compensation structure. It shows that the firm expects an approximate average raise of 8% per year and 16% per promotion year. The analysis also includes an approximate total compensation for each year of career progression.

I had to break up the image into two pieces so they could be readable. They appear on the next two pages.

Don’t forget that in Year 7, the bonus for promotion to manager is being phased in over three years, so that younger managers do not jump their more experienced colleagues in overall comp.

Obviously results will vary but this gives a pretty good picture of what your compensation will look like over the years at P. Dubs. If you’re busting, still not satisfied or have your own variables to add to the analysis provided, do share.

A Young Analyst Wants to Know How to Become a Spreadsheet Rockstar

Welcome to the final-humpless-hump-day before the end of tax season. In today’s edition, an analyst and prospective CMA wants to know how to best improve his spreadsheet skills to the point where they’ll jump out of the screen a do a little jig. Aside from reading the Excel manual, how does one go about this?

Is your career in neutral (or reverse)? Do you need advice on how to cope with a hellish travel schedule? Are you frustrated with a co-worker to the point that eating them seems like a decent option? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll recommend a nice wine.

Back to our wannabe spreadsheet sage:

Hi Going Concern,

I read your small firm accountant blog post with interest and just had to write in. The post states, “…and if you work at a firm where three years are required for promotion, you’ll really become a junior spreadsheet rockstar.”

In short, how do you recommend becoming a spreadsheet rockstar? My Excel skills are satisfactory but I certainly see room for improvement when it comes to analyzing data faster and presenting it better. What do you recommend in terms of specific exercises, resources, books etc?

About me: I’m an analyst (on the slow path to becoming a certified management accountant) at a large bank with around 40,000 staff in total and I’ve been here just over six months. It is my first full time role out of university.

Cheers,
Aspiring Spreadsheet Rockstar

Dear ASR,

So you want to be a David Lee Roth of Microsoft Excel? As a young number cruncher this is a worthy goal. This question will not make for good happy hour convos so you’ve come to the right place; we’ll get you going in the right direction.

The first resource you have at your disposal are the Excel wizards at your workplace. You’ve probably noticed who the savvy spreadsheet users are, so ask them if they wouldn’t mind walking you through pivot tables, vlookups, whatever. The trick is to figure out who actually takes pride (yes, they’re out there) in their spreadsheet skills and to ask them for a little bit of their time to show you the ropes…er, cells. More than likely they’ll be thrilled to show off their skills and bestow wisdom on a newbie. If they balk, just start rumors around the office about how they smell like mens locker room.

If asking a fellow working stiff isn’t an option, then it might be worth your time to see if your internal training curriculum offers advanced Excel courses. An employer of your size may have some decent options but if they don’t, look around for some external classes and submit the cost for reimbursement. I’d be surprised if an employer such as yours wouldn’t be willing to spring for a little self-spreadsheet improvement.

If you’re more of a self-study type, jump over to our British sister from another mister site, AccountingWEB UK, and check out all the tips they have to offer. That’ll keep you busy for awhile.

One other thing you can practice and learn on your own is using key shortcuts. This will allow you to cruise around Excel quicker and it will make you more productive. Lifehacker has a few that will get you started but if you’re stumped it’s a simple as asking Google. Rock on.

No One Is Giving Up Spreadsheets, So The IIA Figured It Better Put Some Audit Guidance Out There

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

Many finance departments would grind to a halt if forced to do without spreadsheets. They’re quick, easy and inexpensive tools for manipulating and analyzing data that just about anyone can master.

However, these attributes also mean that spreadsheets create a tremendous risk, particularly if their results are incorporated into the company’s financial reports or used to support a business’ operations.

With this in mind, the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) in June issued GTAG (global technology audit guide) 14, a guide for auditing what it calls “user-developed applications,” or UDAs. While spreadsheets are the most visible type of UDA, the term also can include applications like user-developed databases and reports. UDAs are “…created and used by end users to extract, sort, calculate, and compile organizational data to analyze trends, make business decisions or summarize operational and financial data,” the IIA states.


By their nature, UDAs present three types of risk. One is data integrity – the old “garbage in, garbage out.” User developed applications don’t follow a structured application development cycle, and lack any sort of change management or version controls – that is, any number of individuals may be able to update a spreadsheet. All this increases the risk of inaccurate data making its way into the application.

Next is the risk that confidential data is compromised. Many UDAs can easily be attached to an email and sent to someone who shouldn’t have access to the data.

Finally, there’s what the IIA calls “availability risk.” Because many UDAs reside on flash drives and individual PCs, they’re easy to overlook when the company is backing up data. Or, the information can easily be lost altogether.

Internal auditors can take several steps in their audits to reduce the risks any UDAs in use pose to their firms. A starting point is identifying key UDAs. These typically are those that are part of the financial or management reporting processes, or use to comply with regulations. One-off spreadsheets used on an ad-hoc basis probably aren’t key.

The auditors also need to assess the risks posed by the key UDAs. To understand this, they’ll need to know who uses the applications, and how. From this, they can estimate the financial, operational and regulatory risks the UDAs present. The more complex the applications are, the more embedded they are in organizational processes, and the greater their complexity, the more risk they present.

Next up is examining the controls in place around the UDAs to determine if they reduce the risks to an acceptable level for the organization.

Spreadsheets and other user-developed applications play a valuable role in many organizations. At the same time, they can expose companies to a great deal of risk. Appropriate management and control is critical to mitigating the risks they present.

Accounting News Roundup: Deloitte Names Van Arsdell as New Chair, CEO of AERS; Maryland Might Be Figuring Out This Fiscal Responsibility Thing; Frank Navigates the Waters | 08.12.10

Stephen C. Van Arsdell Named Chairman and CEO of Deloitte LLP’s Audit and Enterprise Risk Services Subsidiary [PRNewswire]
Thtte vet Steve Van Arsdell replaces Nick Tommasino as the head of Deloitte’s AERS.

As is the wont of these particular announcements, SVA seems pretty flippin’ stoked about the new gig, “I am excited to take the helm of Deloitte & Touche during such dynamic times. We know that to succeed we must always be a leader in quality. This is a shared commitment from all within our organization. The goals we set for ourselves will raise the bar for quality throughout the profession.”

Barry Salzberg got in a few words too, “I am fully confident in Steve’s ability to lead Deloitte & Touche through the myriad challenges and opportunities presented by the economic recovery and regulatory environment changes. His extraordinary talent, experience and leadership style will help further the practice’s primary mission to conduct the highest quality audits. As a continuing and integral member of our senior leadership team, I know his contributions will be considerable. Nick Tommasino has demonstrated a deep sense of partnership and commitment to our organization, and we thank him for his leadership. We’re delighted to bring his client service skills back to the marketplace.”

So, Stevey. Time to get down to brass tacks – everyone’s wondering about those raises.

Microloans Helps Some Small Businesses Survive [WSJ]
“When President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law in February 2009 to create jobs and promote spending, the law included $56.1 million for microloans for small businesses, to be doled out through the Small Business Administration through September.

While some critics complain about the government’s economic stimulus efforts, some lenders and borrowers say the stimulus spending that focused on helping small businesses is working.

Targeted toward start-up, newly-established, or growing small businesses, the microloans are short-term loans up to $35,000 each for working capital or inventory and equipment purchases. The intermediary lenders who distribute the loans can choose to lend more than that limit.”

China’s Rich Have $1.1 Trillion in Hidden Income, Study Finds [Bloomberg]
“China’s households hide as much as 9.3 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) of income that is not reported in official figures, with 80 percent accrued by the wealthiest people, a study showed.

The money, much of it likely “illegal or quasi-illegal,” equates to about 30 percent of China’s gross domestic product, the study, conducted for Credit Suisse AG and published last week by the China Reform Foundation, found. The average urban disposable household income in China is 32,154 yuan, or 90 percent more than official figures, according to the report.”

It’s Time to Give Up Spreadsheets for Tracking Carbon Emissions [Green Biz via AccMan]
Give up on spreadsheets? The horror. “CFOs, CIOs and sustainability teams at large companies have used spreadsheets for years to track corporate carbon emissions.

We are now, however, at a tipping point where the benefits of carbon management software, also known as enterprise carbon accounting (ECA) software, outweigh the benefits of spreadsheets.

With many large companies recently completing their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) questionnaires, and entering budget planning in the fall, it is time to move away from spreadsheets to reduce risk, save money, increase productivity, and establish an enterprise-class source of record for carbon emission data.”


Budget surplus in Maryland? Believe it. [CPA Success]
California, New York – Pay attention.

Do I Owe My Employees a Career Path? [You’re the Boss/NYT]
“Being responsible for your workers’ jobs is hard. Being responsible for their careers is harder.”

TrueBlue Named to Top of Forbes’ “Most Trustworthy Companies” List [Business Wire]
“TrueBlue, Inc. ranked at the top of the list of companies with the ‘most transparent and conservative accounting practices and most prudent management,’ according to a new ‘Most Trustworthy Companies’ list compiled for Forbes by Audit Integrity, an independent financial analytics company.

Audit Integrity’s Accounting & Governance Risk rating, or AGR, rates companies’ accounting and management practices from 0 (very aggressive) to 100 (conservative); companies with a lower rating have been more likely to suffer equity loss, issue financial restatements and face class action suits, Forbes.com says.”

Maxine Waters Whacked, Barney Frank Untouched [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
JW on the Maxine Waters’ ethics violations and how Barney Frank managet to be smart enough (or just politically savvy enough) to keep himself clean-ish.

Accounting News Roundup: Grassley Not Sold on Financial Reform Bill; LeBron Was Probably Considering Tax Implications; Target: Your Spreadsheets | 07.09.10

Grassley Airs Concerns As Vote Nears on Financial Bill [WSJ]
“Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley is ‘very concerned’ about a provision in the financial overhaul bill designed to pay for the leaid Thursday, potentially complicating White House efforts to build a filibuster-proof majority to back the measure.

If Mr. Grassley decides to vote against the bill, Democrats would be left with little margin for error when they bring the bill to the Senate floor, which could happen as soon as next week. Mr. Grassley was one of four Republicans to support an earlier version of the bill when it narrowly passed the Senate in May.”

Number of CEOs Stepping Down is on the Rise [FBN]
It’s hard out there for a CEO. Ask Russ Smyth.

State Jock Taxes: Is LeBron Better Off in Miami? [Tax Foundation]
Of course Florida has no income tax, so every game that LBJ plays in Florida he’ll have a tax liability of $0. What about the other 41 games outside of FLA? That’s another story, “True, if James plays in Miami, none of his neighbors will be paying state income tax, but thanks to the jock tax, LeBron will.

While most people who travel in their jobs pay state income tax only to their home state, which is zero in Florida, athletes get special attention. In the NBA, each player’s per-game salary is computed, and whenever a team is on the road, the players must pay whichever tax rate is higher, the home state’s or the away state’s.”


Facebook Often Not a Job Seeker’s Friend [FINS]
If you’re pounding the pavement for a new job out there, it’s pretty much a given that people are looking at your online activity. But just how much and where? Based on the conversation between FINS’ Kyle Stock asked Michael Fertik of ReputationDefender Inc, you’d better drop those loser friends from high school that have appeared on Cops:

Kyle Stock: Can you speak briefly on to what extent companies are checking up on candidates online?

Michael Fertik: They’re absolutely doing it. It’s somewhere around 70% to 80% of hiring managers. . . And not only are they looking online, they are also looking in really remarkable places like virtual worlds and gaming rooms.

KS: To what extent do people realize this is going on?

MF: Somewhere around 70% of employers are considering online information when evaluating a candidate and only 7% of candidates believe they are doing so. There’s a huge gulf of understanding. . . Everybody has been opted in. There’s kind of a willful ignorance about it. That’s changing, but it’s still there.

And the kinds of information being considered are growing very diverse. It’s not just the photo that you published of yourself with a beer or a bong, it’s also content like who your friends are and what they post on your page and what kinds of groups that you link to. There’s kind of an associative picture that they develop of you and then they make decisions about you based on those associations.

Russian Spies Head Home in Swap Echoing Cold War [Bloomberg]
Defendant #4 and the rest of the gang are going home, making your next conference predictably more boring. Or will it???

Internal Auditors Target Spreadsheets [CFO]
“Last month the Institute of Internal Auditors plugged a gap in its guidance for members by issuing recommendations for the auditing of ‘user-developed applications,’ which generally are spreadsheets and databases developed by end users rather than by IT personnel.

User-developed applications, or UDAs, are subject to a high level of data-integrity risk because there may not be adequate controls over validating their output or making changes to them, the IIA points out. There is also confidentiality risk, because a UDA and its data typically are easy to transmit outside the company via e-mail.”

Survey: Stone Age Processes Combined with Unrealistic Deadlines Lead to Accountant Stress During Closing Period

Lots of you in-house accountants have the unenviable task of magically closing your company’s books on a monthly basis come hell or Hurricane Katrina. Unit4 Coda’s recent survey found that this can be a stressful time (shock!) but, despite what you hear from that dick technical accounting manager, it’s not all your fault.

One problem, according to the survey, is that several accountants are still relying on spreadsheets for many of their closing processes. Now we realize that your Excel addiction may not be something you’re interested in kicking to the curb but it really might be for the best.


But your resistance to change isn’t the only problem; you can blame management’s bullshit deadlines too and the fact that they don’t listen to you when you try to tell them (via whispers to yourself in your cubicle) that said deadlines are completely unrealistic:

Contributing factors include being held to unrealistic deadlines, ineffective processes, an over-reliance on spreadsheets and inaccurate reporting. The survey also revealed that among the top contributors to stress was the apparent disconnect between executive management teams and accountants.

Over 66 percent of the survey’s respondents(1) said an average close period takes over five days to complete, but the survey also revealed that more than 55 percent of accountants are expected to complete a close in a maximum of five days.

With tight management deadlines to meet, efficient systems and processes need to be in place in order to ensure accuracy and speed. However, the survey results also revealed that 53 percent of finance departments do more than 20 percent of their close period activity manually via spreadsheets, leaving larger room for error and a requirement to improve automation.

So if this sounds remotely like your work environment you have a couple of options: 1) have a frank discussion with shot callers in your office about investing in some technology from the 21st Century so the deadlines can be met or 2) continue with the current approach until you go postal. Choose wisely.

Inefficient Period Close Processes Are Major Cause of Accountant Stress, UNIT4 CODA Survey Finds [Unit4 Coda via Web CPA]

Accounting News Roundup: Rajaratnam Claims KPMG “Tricked” Him into Illegal Tax Shelter; United, Continental Agree to ‘Merger of Equals’; Some Thoughts on iPad for Accountants | 05.03.10

Galleon’s Rajaratnam Said He Was Duped in Illegal Tax Shelter [Bloomberg Businessweek]
Raj Rajaratnam, who is awaiting trial in an insider trading case set to take place this fall, claimed that he was “tricked into investing in an illegal tax shelter,” that was developed by KPMG and “tax shelter promoter” Diversified Group, according to a lawsuit from 2005.

Rajaratnam and Galleon co-founder Gary Rosenbach won a $5.8 million in an arbitrator’s judgment against Diversified Group and its president in 2009. KPMG was not mentioned in the judgment and neither Rajaratnam’s attorney nor KPMG would comment on the current r if the firm had made a payment to Raj.

Rajaratnam and Rosenbach said they were induced to invest in a shelter called “OPS,” or Option Partnership Strategy, which was developed by KPMG and Diversified as a way to generate fees for the firms.

“The OPS shelter was essentially an illegal basis-shifting scheme which — unbeknownst to plaintiffs — relied upon a disingenuous reading of the federal tax code,” his lawyers wrote in the complaint.

Prosecutors will be interested to know what Rajaratnam said under oath in his suit against KPMG to determine if any of his statements will be useful in their insider trading case.

United, Continental Agree to Combine [WSJ]
United Airlines and Continental Airlines have agreed to combine, in a stock swap valued at $3 billion.

The “merger of equals” would create the world’s largest airline that would control 21% of the total domestic capacity and be 8% larger than Delta Air Lines in terms of miles flown, serving 370 destinations. Assuming the deal does not raise any antitrust concerns and contracts for employees are approved in a timely fashion, the companies plan to complete the transaction in the 4th quarter of this year.

iPad for business – the taste test [ZDNet]
Dennis Howlett tested out an iPad and since some of you have, at the very least, wondered about it for your own professional use, here’s his take on Numbers, a spreadsheet application that he says is “gorgeous to look at” but has several drawbacks:

I found it was possible to create a confusing error formula. Ahem. That will require fixing. While Numbers has masses of functions (see illustration), there is no ability to create Pivot Tables. Those are the accountant’s stand by for reporting and the like. It’s boring but essential stuff. Without Pivot Tables, the iPad won’t get a sniff in the hands of this powerful and influential group. There is an alternative for the future. Some smart developers out there will build reporting applications that can run over the Internet. It is one of the gaping holes in the SaaS/cloud story requiring urgent attention.

Any other thoughts on iPad for accountants? Weigh in.

IIA Proposes New Standards for Internal Auditors [Compliance Week]
The Institute of Internal Auditors is requested comment on proposals for new standards that would include a requirement for internal auditors to provide audit opinions and to additional explanation of the responsibility of internal auditors for the work of contractors.

Grant Thornton closing Triad office, moving operations to Charlotte [Triad Business Journal (subscription required for full article)]
Grant Thornton finally got around to announcing the closure of its Greensboro/Triad office. We reported on the closure back in February. The firm announced that the “vast majority” of its approximately 30 employees would be moving to the firm’s offices in either Charlotte or Raleigh. The TBJ reports National Director of Communications, John Vita’s comments: “We remain committed to the Triad marketplace, however, we believe it can be best served over the long term by attracting the highest quality professionals who wish to work out of our larger offices in Charlotte and Raleigh.”