Just a small Excel fix. Just a couple of tables as a temporary solution. Just a little help with some formulas * How small Excel problems turn into a large-scale, business software. Happens to me all the time…

Just a small patch…

Couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a business owner, with this story: he’s offering an online service that matches home loaners with investors. For every mortgage need, he matches many small investors (any person, basically) to fund this loan. Loaners’ monthly receivables are distributed to the loan’s funders, short of the company’s commission and taxes on profit.

There is a platform under development to support the whole thing, but in the meantime, just until the summer, he needs a temporary Excel solution to help him (and his staff) manage and keep their eye on the ball.

Maybe not such a small patch, after all…

I ask a few questions, and the story grows arms and legs. There are also agents with their commission, a mortgage must meet legal requirements, the payments chart needs to be presented, sometimes loaners are late on their payments, and there’s a process to follow. Money is stored in a special account, and a security buffer is accumulating money in another account. Investors may invest once, or engage in a saving-account like fashion, in which monthly payments get assigned to open loans every month. And periods must match.

Oh, and there are reports. For accounting, to the bank, to the loaners, to the legal securities, to management. Emails must be sent to each loaner and investor, to notify on each event.

I start writing the business requirements analysis document. More questions. More requirements. Soon enough we’re planning a full-blown mortgage and investment management solution – short of the customers interaction part on the Web.

Changing the customer’s perception

I’m clarifying the situation to my customer. He understands, and the project keeps growing.

One should ask: the customer had a small system in mind. Wasn’t he intimidated by the large-scale project you reflected to him?

This is a valid concern, of course. It’s much about psychology rather than doing the math. He has a major investment in place for a permanent solution – how did you (me) get him to invest many thousands of Dollars for a temporary solution?

Well, it’s the art of asking the right questions, and reflecting the consequences on the business if avoiding making this investment. Turns out, his pain and risk exposure, even for half a year, is so high, this project is a worthwhile investment for him. I just needed to present the situation in a compelling way.

How does it work, time and again?

If you have already downloaded my Business First Guides series, you already know of at least three other similar stories.

Why is this happening to me all the time, and in most cases – succeeds? Of course, there’s more than my analysis and presentation skills.

Managers usually do not think of Excel as a viable technology for a complete, robust and scalable business solution, so they think: just a little “fix”. Just a temporary solution…

My services are not cheap, but my ability to leverage Excel’s great development platform (VBA) and objects, with a strong, robust Database (MySQL), along with my code library built over the years – allows me to produce a great business solution in half the investment and time they would expect from a traditional software house, and not only because I don’t have an expensive software house to feed.

Now they do the math: if they can get a complete business solution for a reasonable price, considering the alternative risk exposure, loss of business and errors in their daily work – they trust me and we have a project!


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