Being Creative with Excel

When most people make spreadsheets they are boring, bland, uninspiring, and mundane. You know the type – rows and columns of data, void of any colour, and only the AutoSum being used occasionally. Sadly, this is as far as most people get with Excel. Yes, they learn some shortcuts to spend less time make the spreadsheets, but they never really push the limits. They never make full use of Excel.

I obviously use Excel to do far more than most people, hence me starting Spreadsheet Solutions, but I too can get stuck in a rut. When I do project after project for businesses, I am often more focussed on the content of the spreadsheet, than trying new ways of displaying data. I can also get bogged down with making solutions, so occasionally I need to let my creative side out to play, and make something different. I find the best way to do this is to make games.

The latest game I made is an international travel game, where you use randomly calculated numbers to decide your nationality. This then gives you a passport and, as you travel the globe, you collect passport stamps. Instead of just having text to depict this, I used some clever conditional formatting to create a passport, which is colour coordinated to your nationality.

I then created some tabs for the cities that could be visited, places from all over the globe. I set flight ticket prices, and got some pictures from each city. You have to pay for your hotel stay and flight tickets in the local currency at each city (except for your home city). You buy and schedule your flight tickets to the next city, before settling the hotel fee and heading to the airport. Here is the view of each city tab (London is shown).

That’s all well and good, but the object of the game is to make money while travelling the globe. So, how do you make money to win and pay for your travels?

Simple – you trade currencies. I use the random numbers to decide how each currency fluctuates, on the hour, every hour. The game goes on for 10 days and, in that time, the currencies could change in value each hour. While you’re flying around the globe, the currency values change, which changes the exchange rates. This means that you need to make sure you have the right money in each country, to pay for the hotel and get your flight to the next city. Not only that, but you need to watch out for currency ups and downs so that you can make the right trades to make money. Here is the Bureau de Change page.

So, how do you keep on top of this? How do you know much money you have? Well, I had this on the ‘wallet’ tab on an older version of this game, but now it’s on the ‘mobile phone’ tab (oh how times have changed). This tells me how much money I have in each currency, and also how much that is worth in a World Currency (in order to compare the value of different currencies). This is not only dependent on the strength of each currency, but also on the overall market. The phone also tells you where you are, and how much time is left (battery life).

You can then use your hard earned cash to go travelling. Do you choose business class or economy class? Well, that depends if you wish to trade currencies while in the air. If you want to, then you need to fork out double the price for business class. If you choose not to trade, then get herded in with the rest of the cattle in economy class. I then used a world map on a graph to show the available cities, where you’ve been, and also where the flight is at any moment. While you’re in flight, you either have phone WiFi to trade currencies (business class), or you are in flight mode (economy class).

I also made a report of the game once completed, but that looks more like what you would expect in a business spreadsheet (pie charts – everyone loves a pie chart).

All of that in one macro-free spreadsheet.

So, that’s what I do for fun! It may be sad, but the fact is that I am always pushing myself in Excel, I’m always learning new techniques, and I’m constantly finding new ways to improve spreadsheets. This is what I love to do, and this is what I want to do for your business. Do you use spreadsheets? Whether you do or not, imagine what could be achieved for your business if I put what I have learned into practice for you. If you’d like to find out more, please visit the Bespoke Solutions page and get in touch.

This game is currently not available to purchase or download. We have released a similar game (the currency trading only, no travel), which you can download for free here.

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