One fish… two fish… red fish… blue fish

Engineers or developers looking to become Product Managers or Product Marketing Managers have usually not had much exposure to Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet programs unless they were project or group managers who needed to track costs.  But that is usually the exception rather than the rule.

“So what the heck do I need Excel for?” you ask.

Well, you don’t have to necessarily understand accounting 101, but there are two categories of uses, each with specific examples below.  It may not apply to every job description for PM or PMM, but it should reinforce the notion that you need to think of yourself as becoming somewhat of a “jack of all trades” in your analytics and communication capabilities.  And Excel is another tool in your tool box.  The uses I have come across (and done at one time or another) are below:

Financial Calculations

  • Pricing worksheet (though often accounting may own this)
  • ROI calculator (as a sales tool)
  • Revenue tracking by product line(if you don’t have something like Salesforce.com)
  • Business case analysis (development costs vs. revenue for new product offerings)
  • Web site or user forum statistics tracking (this was before Google analytics and other very affordable tools)

Tabular Information Summary (like a simple database)

  • Product Launch Checklist / Launch Plan
  • Enhancement requests
  • Trade show / event attendees or leads
  • Feature lists / competitive comparisons

There are specialized tools for some of the use cases above, but with budgets being what they are, they are not always available.  So remember what a flexible tool Excel can be as a substitute.  You probably already have it installed on your work PC.  The developer in you may even get excited about being a power-user with macros …me, not so much – that’s why I am no longer a programmer 🙂

One last benefit is – especially at small companies – you may need help from Accounting – even the controller or CFO on getting started.  They are usually helpful and getting to know them can be extremely useful to get the inside scoop on how your company is doing.

But that’s a story for another post….

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