Tech skills: Spreadsheet modelling
Simon Wright, operations director of jobs board CareersinAudit, kicks off a new series on building up the right technology skills.
According to Wright there’s more to spreadsheet modelling than meets the eye.
The spreadsheet is one of those staples of business that is unlikely to bid farewell anytime soon. While it is true that those aspiring for accountancy and audit roles must be skilled in functions far more abstract than Excel and its formulae-filled tables, spreadsheet or financial modelling remains a key strategic function across organisations.
Being skilled in spreadsheet modelling requires a keen eye for detail as the work involves dealing with very detailed data from various financial deals and accounts. There are many files to manage, each containing vast amounts of data, stored across multiple sheets, within thousands upon thousands of cells and rows, so the ability to pick out the discrepancies is like findings a needle in a haystack. As the types of deals being executed have grown bigger and more complicated, the significance of financial models has similarly evolved, as have the professionals responsible for them.
When it comes to possessing the right skills to be an effective spreadsheet modeller, accountancy and audit candidates must not only demonstrate a keen knowledge of the financial landscape but, more importantly, it is their ability to problem-solve that employers will be most interested in. Logical and focused-thinking will be required for the complicated models needed for big infrastructure deals, so being able to show examples of how these traits have successfully served your work will more than impress potential employers.
The candidates coming through from university are joining a new generation of accountants and auditors - one that is data literate and comes with experience and understanding of the data analytics tools required for modern audits. As technology grows and seeps into every industry, that need for individuals well-versed in data has become ever more of a priority for employers.
Combined with the ever-evolving data analytics tools available to accountants or auditors, an analytical mind is also needed to be able to analyse both big and small data with speed and efficiency. With an increasing need for technical skills, candidates would be wise to hone their knowledge of and experience with programming tools from VBA and SQL to VB. Net and Java, C++, Python and data mining, to increase efficiency and productivity when coding for Excel.
Learning by trial and error is another key characteristic of those skilled in spreadsheet modelling, as the ability to evolve from your own and other people’s mistakes is the best experience to stow away in your proverbial vault. Having typically two or more years’ experience of examining and reviewing other people’s models will instils you with the exposure to the vast range of problems that can arise - whether those problems come from human error or a straightforward lack of understanding of the functional parameters of spreadsheets.
The important thing to remember with spreadsheet modelling is to respect it in its own right and understand the significant role it plays within business.
Not seeing that may cause you to miss those hard-to-find discrepancies and even lead to unnecessary setbacks in your work and career as a whole.
Is spreadsheet modelling a key strategic function in your organisation?