Excel guru Chandoo’s AMA on Reddit

Excel MVP Chandoo did an AMA (“Ask me anything”) on Reddit India recently.

I read it – it was full of interesting tidbits and Excel wisdom – and made some notes as I went so I thought I’d share them here. If you don’t feel like reading the whole AMA, you can read the pertinent bits below:

Q & A

Question: Do you think Excel will eventually become obsolete and will be replaced by specialized software which are coming up for each type of problem/analysis?

Answer: I think Excel will be here for a looong time. Microsoft is making it more powerful & sexy so that organizations need not go anywhere else.


Question: How do you know when the right time is to switch from Excel to a database program?

Answer: When you find your self building applications, dealing with multiple tables and worrying about referential integrity, its time you switched to databases.


Question: How come my hair looks funny in our logo?

Answer: It was never like that, a freak photoshop accident ended up creating Chandoo.org logo.



Question: Just a quick one here, did being a MVP help in your entrepreneurship?

Answer: Yes, it brings a lot of credibility to my work. Also, having access to other MVPs & Microsoft Excel team is invaluable.


Question: With Power BI type skills, do you plan on releasing a course/book in 2016?

Answer: I plan to run a course on Power BI in 2016. I am playing with Power BI designer and learning more every week.


Question: Do you have any advice on how we can help get others as excited to learn about Excel as we are?

Answer: Make it a game, instead of new function / feature per session, start with a tricky (but relevant) problem and explore solutions using nothing but Excel. I find games, homeworks and puzzles are deeply engaging for most of us.


Question: If you could add any new feature/improvement to Excel, what would it be?

Answer: There are many good choices here, two I can think right now – vlookup with multiple conditions, a weighted average function.

On this note, the Excel team announced a bunch of new features coming in their January 2016 update, including funnel charts and IFS, MAXIF, MINIF formulas. Although not specifically what Chandoo was referring too, these new features are going to be awesome!


Question: I was wondering whether there’s market for more Excel gurus?

Answer: With 300 mn users, Excel can always use few more bloggers. Plus the knowledge market is not mutually exclusive. So same people end up reading multiple blogs on same topic. If you have something to share and help others, why not do it.

All said and done, the overnight success in online business is takes 24 to 48 months in most cases, and by then you also get the early start advantage 🙂


Question: What advice do you have for small time entrepreneurs?

Answer: There are many things really. Few important ones here (for rest refer to the link at the end).

  • Figure out how to make profit from day 1. Remember Profit = Revenues – Expenses. It has very little to do with number of followers, page loads, free app downloads etc.

  • Live below your means, both as a business and as an individual.

  • Offer good value products to your customers. Instead of competing on price, compete on value.
  • Simplify your processes and make it easy for your employees to help your customers.
  • I write a blog sharing my experiences and lessons here: http://startupdesi.com/


Question: From where do you get the inspiration for the look and design of your dashboards ?

Answer: I look at interesting visualizations on web (ny times, economist etc.). I doodle and I play around with various mockups in ppt/ excel.


Question: how do you approach optimization for large spreadsheets?


  • Can you remove any of the sheets. May be divide the workbook in to few smaller workbooks?

  • Can you combine few worksheets in to one?

  • Can you hide any sheets that need not appear all the time? Say calculation, assumption type of sheets?

  • Set up an Index sheet (table of contents page) and move to the left most position

  • Set up your calculations top down, left to right. That is If a cell is going to be referenced in multiple places, move the cell to top left.

  • Reduce / avoid the usage of volatile functions (rand, now, today, offset, indirect etc.)

  • Use Excel tables to hold your data. Name other things and use names & Structural references in your calculations.

  • If there is a heavy calculation somewhere, try replacing that with pivot table or power pivot. These will speed up your worksheet and can be refreshed easily when data changes.


Question: in terms of visualization options how would rate excel vs. something like Tableau?

Answer: I think tableau offers beautiful visualizations with ease. But Excel is fast catching up. Given the fact that most people already have Excel on their computers and use it as defacto data standard, I see Excel visualizations as the future for most.

See also:

The Microsoft Excel team did their own AMA a while back that is also well worth a read.

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