Which would you rather know, where you are now compared to where you were last month, or where you might be in the future? Personally, I’ll take the view of the future. What might change and how can I prepare? Are there threats? Opportunities? What might I do to make progress and how well might it work?
Yet much business analysis focuses on month-to-month status. This is especially true of the ubiquitous dashboards that seem to be the major product of Microsoft Excel these days—a beautiful, but static, view of the moment.
Forget the dashboard that compares where you are to where you were. In the current environment, you need analysis to tell you where you should be going. Use the dynamic and interactive powers of Microsoft Excel to visualize the future, compare your options, set requirements to lead you to your goals, find what will drive success, understand your risks, and more. Ask “what if,” not “what is.”
A couple of posts back I gave a spreadsheet to figure out whether you should marry a millionaire. Even if you don’t have such an opportunity (few of us do), you could use the exact same spreadsheet to figure out how much you can afford to spend in retirement, or how much you need to save to support a comfortable retirement. It looks into the future and compares your expected savings with your expected expenditures, year-by-year. It’s not beautiful, but it gives you answers. You can ask “what if” about things you can’t control. What if inflation goes nuts? What if my investments stagnate? You can ask “what if” about things you can control. What if I start with more money? What if I spend less? Change the assumption, see the result. No pretty graphs, no fancy graphics, just instant insights.