Author: Conrad Carlberg
Publisher: Que, 2010
Aimed at: Excel users concerned with managing business finance
Pros: Theory and practice well explained, good use of examples
Cons: Endorsement of array formulas
Reviewed by: Janet Swift
Although it doesn't proclaim it on the cover this is the fourth edition of a tried and tested volume that sets out to help business managers in several ways.
While this is the Excel 2010 version it doesn't go into details of the interface - the previous version was on Excel 2007 when the Ribbon was introduced - and while it places the Excel 2010 method first it also provide instructions for Excel 97/2003.
Reading the Introduction there's a section on "Two Special Skills: Named Ranges and Array Formulas". One I approve of and the other I don't. Naming ranges, used very effectively throughout the book, is something I wholeheartedly endorse; the use of array formulas is the one I'm very doubtful about and try to avoid, mainly because it is very easy to misuse them. However, despite the claim that this technique would be encountered frequently, I didn't find it cropping up often and I did it used in situations where it was both legitimate and unavoidable.
The book has four distinct parts. Part I: Analyzing Financial Statements helps business owners use their accounts to discover and understand how their business is doing. Most business will use accounting software to produce the types of reports discussed here but there are various good reasons to use Excel to explore them. One is that it gets you close to the data and understand it in a deeper way than just reading a report produced by your accounts package. Another is that if you don't have real data - for example in the case of a start up - you can plug in estimates more easily into Excel than into an accounts package. Chapter 1 reminds you that you can import reports from most accounting software into Excel and it also contains a lot of practical spreadsheeting information - there's a good discussions of absolute, relative and mixed cell references, for example.
This mix of hands-on Excel and insights into accounting are a feature of this book. For example in Chapter 3, on the topic of Valuing Inventories for the Balance Sheet, you'll find a discussion of perpetual and periodic inventory systems plus a lot about Excel's database features. By the end of Part I the reader will have delved deeply into assets, sales and accounts receivable and profitability.leverage/liquidity/activity ratios.
Part II: Financial Planning and Control has just three chapters: Chapter 8: Budgeting and Planning Cycle; Chapter 9: Forecasting and Projects and Chapter 10: Measuring Quality. Here we move from looking at what has already happened to looking forward and working towards goals. Chapter 9 demonstrates the use of charts and trend lines and Chapter 10 goes into statistical process control - again with charts.
In the third part of the book, Investment Decisions, we meet the idea (explained very briefly so you may need more help) of Future, Present and Net Present value. It also uses Excel's Solver and Scenario Manager. In Chapter 15: Making Investment Decisions Under Uncertain Conditions we also encounter Excel's tools for standard deviations, confidence intervals and regression analysis and in Chapter 16: Depreciating Assets we encounter its alternative functions and methods for working out depreciation.
The final part, Sales and Marketing, starts with two chapters on importing data from databases and web-based sources into Excel and and exporting data from it, looking at how VBA can be used to update and external database and the use of ADO. The penultimate chapter, Analyzing Contributions and Margins, looks break-even analysis while the final one, Pricing and Costing discusses how to implement Absorption and Contribution Costing in Excel.
This book covers a great deal in a readable way. You need to be a fairly experienced Excel user - or be prepared to consult other help sources - to get the most from it. But it should repay a careful read.