How to turn Excel into a Vespa

The head of the 5-member PMO team at this mid-size bank was exasperated.

She needed a simple solution for her small team to monitor & report the costs of projects within the department. A single Excel workbook, by itself, wasn’t suitable for a team of five.

She reached out to the head of IT development for a quote to build a small database application to track and report on about a dozen departmental projects.

The quote came back in the six figures.


When I spoke with her she said “the IT department is trying to sell me a Mack truck when all I need is a Vespa”.

So that’s what we called the solution we built together. Vespa.




We built a database in Microsoft Access with a separate database backend and interface front end. This managed all the database entry.

Meanwhile, the reports were all generated through Excel, using preformatted templates extracting data from the Access backend. It was sufficient for a team of five and the volume of data they were managing.

It also stopped the game of pass-the-parcel, where users emailed the “latest” update of the spreadsheet to each other as the sole “version of truth” was tucked away in a single database.

The project took several weeks from beginning-to-end rather than 6 months.

And rather than costing six-figures, the project was delivered for less than one-tenth the original quote.

Excel, demonstrating again, that good things can come in small packages.

Where have you seen a small, nimble Excel solution outgun a behemoth?

Share you war stories in the comments below.


Marcus has been an Excel & VBA developer for over 20 years working in the trenches in Investment Banks and Assets Managers, previously in Melbourne and now in London.