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Following on from some recent articles about Excel , this cautionary tale is just one example of how your reliance on Excel could become expensive.

[This tale is told with permission from the organisation involved. I am sure many others have had the same experience.]

“Every year, we recruit graduates for roles across their business, but primarily to fill vacancies in operational areas.

Last year, one particular recruit really impressed.

Alongside her enthusiasm to get involved, it turned out she was also a whizz with Excel.

She could create macros and spreadsheet automations beyond what most of the existing employees thought possible.

She was like some sort of Excel magician.

Before we knew it, the new recruit had automated a lot of the manual, low-value work that used to take up so much of our experienced employees’ time.

Everyone was delighted. The recruit got to spend most of her time doing what she loved (Excel magic) and everyone else got to concentrate on more interesting and higher-value work.

And then she left.

Everything was fine initially.

The spreadsheets continued to work.


No-one knew how they worked and no-one dared to change anything in case it broke the magic spell.

Inevitably, something did go wrong with one of the spreadsheets. This caused some small knock-on effects that accumulated into a more significant error.

To add to the problem, we did not spot the issue immediately. It took a query from a client a few weeks later to alert us that something was amiss.

It took time to identify and fix the problem, to re-run and re-issue the numbers, and to compensate those affected. The reputational damage is still being repaired.”

The true cost of taking on this recruit was painfully high.

If you have an Excel magician in your business, make sure you plan for their disappearance.