Excel For Inventory Management?

August 7, 2013

excel-for-inventory-managementI recently visited a company that uses Excel for inventory management which is not unusual as many small businesses use Excel to manage areas of business for which they do not have a purpose-built system. But this visit reminded me how dangerous it can be to use Excel for certain types of business activity.

(To be clear: Excel is an outstanding business tool and I use it all the time. But like any tool, it works best when used for appropriate purposes.)

At this company, their Excel spreadsheets are manually updated when shipments arrive, when they get around to it. And they’re updated again when products are shipped out, some time after the fact. They use these spreadsheets for information about inventory: what’s in stock, when to replenish and how much to order. They also use them for costing inventory, including landed costs like duty, brokerage and freight. So these are pretty important business tools, right? Now read this question and answer exchange with the business owner:

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Office 2013: A Second Opinion

February 14, 2013

In a guest post on this blog, David Silva shared his impressions of moving to Office 2013. I recently went through the process of upgrading to both Windows 8 and Office 2013. After two weeks I had to move back to Windows 7 (but that’s a discussion for a different day). At the same time I took the opportunity to revert to Office 2010.

Why did I do that? Is Office 2013 so bad / ugly / undesirable? The answer for me is a little bit “yes” and a little bit “no”. I do find the look and feel disconcerting – it’s flat, and somewhat retro, and clearly designed with tablets and full screen in mind. I’m still using a laptop as a desktop replacement (and an iPad for mobility), so this dinosaur struggled to discern the overlapping windowed Office 2013 apps on my large second monitor – a consequence of the flattened look. Plus, to me it just looks ugly.

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Moving to Microsoft Office 2013

January 28, 2013

Guest blog by David Michaelangelo Silva

Experience with Office 2013

I recently made the move to Microsoft Office 2013 and thought I would share my experience as well as some tips and tricks for getting started.

First of all, Office 2013 is not something to be afraid of. Making the jump from Office 2007 or 2010 is quite easy. The main differences are found in the user interface design and colour scheming while the basic layout remains the same. Of course, jumping from Office 2003 to 2013 will be a significant jump, however, if you are still using Office 2003 you are missing out on a lot.

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Life’s a Slice(r) with Excel 2010

November 30, 2010

As discussed in a previous post, Excel Pivot Tables are powerful tools for analyzing and reporting on data from your accounting software package, and other business data sources.

With Office 2010, Excel has an added feature that takes Pivot Tables a step further: the Slicer – which allows you to slice and dice an existing Pivot table through new dimensions.

For example, here’s a simple Pivot table summarizing sales by customer by year:

Sales Pivot

But what if we wanted to further analyze these sales numbers, slicing them by different salespeople and product categories, for example? Enter the Slicer:

“Sliced” Pivot

In this example we’re still looking at sales by customer by year, but we’ve sliced it for sales by 2 salespeople only, and for just the Seafood and Bowls product categories.

Anyone else used this (or even knew it existed)?

iLike these iPhone iApps

October 12, 2010

For those iPhone users who are NOT devoted to only ever using free apps, here are two useful business apps I use and recommend. They are NOT free, but they are very good value for (very little) money.


This app (under $15) extends the functionality of Microsoft Office, allowing the creation and edit of Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. The separate desktop application for your PC or Mac handles synchronization of documents between phone and computer. The user interface is cunningly designed to minimize the disadvantages of the small display area.

This has quickly become my best productivity app. Search for this in the App store.

Signature Pro

For $5 (or technically, just under), add professional signatures to your outbound emails from you iPhone. This app fills a need for just about any business person using an iPhone to send email. Multiple signatures, with logos, photos, social media links, and more – in fact your iPhone signature will probably be an improvement on your existing desktop version.

Search in app store or visit http://www.ideasunplugged.com/signature.

What business apps are other iPhone users very pleased with, and willing to recommend?

Outlook 2010 – 2 new things I love

August 3, 2010

OK, perhaps “love” is too strong a word here – I mean, get a grip, it’s only software, not something to actually fall in love with. Now if it were soccer…

But I digress (actually, I do that quite frequently – it’s a problem. See, there – I just did it again).

Back on topic – having upgraded to Office 2010 a while back, as a typical user I’ve been slow to learn what’s new, other than the very obvious, in-your-face changes. But this upgrade – Outlook specifically – is worth spending some time on, learning about new features and capabilities, because like many of you, I spend a significant chunk of time each day face to face with Outlook. So anything new that saves time or improves my experience in any meaningful way is like striking gold. Well, perhaps silver, but still good.

Thing 1: Quick steps

No, I’m not inviting you to dance. Quick steps are available from the ribbon (new to Outlook, but introduced in Office 2007 for Word, Excel, etc.) and can perform multiple actions with a single click. For example, several times a day I receive emails that I handle this way: I create  a task from the email (using drag and drop), I reply to the email, and I move the email from my Inbox to another folder. I have now created a Quick Step that does all three of these with a single click. This (together with other Quick Steps) is saving me so much time that I can now write blog articles like this one.

Thing 2: People Pane

Not the same thing as people pain, this new email message feature appears both in the reading pane and when you open an email. At the bottom, you have a collapsible additional pane with a number of resources relating to the person who sent the email. These include all emails exchanged, attachments sent and received, and meetings. You can also connect Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to this pane.

This one also saves me a lot of time, whoch (jesting aside) get reinvested in the wholesale distribution software business instead of the “search for emails and attachments” business.

So there you are: 2 things about Outlook 2010 which I like, and would love if Outlook was, in fact, soccer.

Outlook Add-In: forgotten attachments

June 28, 2010

We’ve all done something like this: you hit the send button on an email that refers to an attachment, only to then realize that you forgot the attachment. Your follow-up email sheepishly says something like: “…and here’s the attachment.” I last did this just 3 days ago – and did it twice – when sending information on our wholesale distribution software to several recipients. Way to make a lasting impression.

There’s a new free download for Outlook from Microsoft Office labs – Forgotten Attachment reminder. Once installed, it scans the text of your message when you hit send for references to an attachment, and if it finds such a reference but no attachment it warns you thus:


As my colleague at the accounting software company said, “An excellent way to avoid looking like a dolt!”

You can download it from http://www.officelabs.com/projects/forgottenattachmentdetector/Pages/default.aspx

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