David Lyford smith
Member Since: 15th Apr 2016
5th Aug 2016
This is a fair point - ICAEW tries to use 'spreadsheet' wherever possible, but that decision was made after naming the Excel Community! At its peak the Excel share of the spreadsheet market was over 90%; however with Google Sheets, LibreOffice, Apple Numbers, and other competitors rising, I think 'spreadsheet' is the right default.
To some extent I suppose you could say that 'Excel' has become genericised the way "sellotape" or "coke" have.
2nd Aug 2016
I think that perhaps there is a difference in our focuses that is leading to the difference in our interpretation of the spreadsheet user landscape. Our committee of volunteers that worked on the creation of this covers training providers, financial modellers, VBA developers, and so on. Especially from the training data, our hypothesis that the overwhelming majority of users are non-expert is borne out. Microsoft's own telemetry data shows that the majority of spreadsheet files contain no formulas whatsoever. Our concern is with minimum standards - and certainly I would expect a Developer to, as quoted elsewhere in the document, be able to learn most any new Excel feature given the need to. The levels are about the pre-existing, universal, minimum knowledge that certifies an expert. For example, we had many modellers that had never used a PivotTable in their lives - but could create large and complex financial models. There are differences in how expertise manifests.
In terms of the tools I mentioned, there are several qualifications and assessments on the commercial market. As a non-commercial, it's not really appropriate for me to recommend any particular one.
Ultimately, if for your own purposes the 'Developer' standard is too low - then by all means, expect more! We are not looking to be a panacea for spreadsheet knowledge here - we know that many will have specific situations that one standard cannot reflect. But I wanted to take the time to thank you for your engagement with this - it is helpful to me to think about additional perspectives for when we revisit and update this in future.
25th Jul 2016
Hi - David here.
To direct a response to your post - yes, certainly experts should have a great deal more knowledge. But our feeling was that mandating every item was excessive - for example, someone may well be an accomplished model builder, data analyst, and VBA developer, but have not needed to use (say) Go To Special, and hence didn't know it already. That person is clearly an expert user - but spreadsheet packages are very wide and expecting someone to know "everything" before calling them an expert is unrealistic.
Now, certainly there is room for distinction between the 1% that are at the doorway of the Developer level and the 0.1% that know most or all of what we have listed - but we didn't feel that the framework should be focusing on that section of the audience when there are already so many excellent tools for identifying top-end experts out there. We feel the largest benefit is in building robust minimum standards, not aspirational top-end ones. Certainly if the skills you list are important for a role, then go ahead and require them - but many others would not need them. Ultimately the journey of a 'super user' will require learning most everything on this list - but realistically someone is a top 1% expert long before then.