Boosting Efficiency At The Workplace: Q&A With David Benaim



David Benaim is the founder of local consulting firm Xlconsulting, which specialises in IT and accounting solutions for small businesses and NGOs. Besides being a chartered accountant, Benaim is a Microsoft Office specialist (and enthusiastic!) who shares his expert knowledge of the software in presentations he delivers around Phnom Penh. A recurrent theme in Benaim’s presentations is increasing efficiency and productivity in the workplace.

B2B: What are some of the very practical and simple ways in which your everyday office worker can boost his/ her productivity with Microsoft Office?

Benaim: In general, we should try to think of ways to Do Once, Reuse Often (DORO). This is the basis of copy & paste, a tool which we all love to use, there are, however, several tools just as useful as copy & paste which go unused. Here are some examples across MS Office:

  • Double clicking the format painter to lock it; this allows you to repeat the same formatting multiple times
  • Pressing Ctrl (Cmd in Mac) + Y is the way to repeat last format action
  • Select text and increase font size with Ctrl (Cmd in Mac) + Shift + >

B2B: You’ve mentioned in some of your talks around town that people just don’t utilise Excel and PowerPoint to their full potential, not even close. What are some of the most surprising applications or functions that you can find in these programs that most people wouldn’t know about?

Benaim: 40 percent of PowerPoint time is spent formatting, that’s about 30 percent more than someone should spend! SmartArt is a fantastic feature only used by one percent of PowerPoint’s users. Select your text, then click Convert to SmartArt in the home tab—the one single fastest way to rearrange your text into several text boxes. You can do the same with pictures: select all your pictures and text, then go to the Picture format tab and choose Picture layout.

Most users are also not aware that you can align and distribute your objects perfectly in two clicks. Select two or more objects, then from the home tab click arrange → align, and choose whichever option you like. With this feature you can align to each object or to the slide itself by ticking the checkbox Align to slide (i.e. if you want three objects equally spaced from left to right of slide).

Only four percent of Excel files around the world have functions (=SUM, =AVERAGE, =VLOOKUP are examples of functions). Any Excel user who doesn’t know SUM, AVERAGE, AGGREGATE, COUNTA, ROUND, VLOOKUPs, COUNTIFS & SUMIFS is probably already manually creating the end goal of these; only that, by doing it manually, it takes them more time to get to a solution with more errors.

B2B: I am a writer, so my job involves a lot of research, interviewing people, and, of course, writing (mostly on Word or Google Docs). What are some of the ways in which dexterity at Microsoft Office could make me more efficient at my job?

David: OneNote, OneNote, OneNote, Office’s most neglected but useful app. It offers much better ways than Word of doing research including typing anywhere on the page, converting pictures into text, creating checklists and tags, collaborating with team mates, and not having to save documents, but just keeping them in your notebook, instantly searchable. With Word, Styles should be used exclusively as the way to format documents. Also executive summaries or other document summaries should never be retyped: the cross reference tool means you can create live links from one part of the document to another.

David Benaim believes most organisations do not utlise accounting software to its full potential.

B2B: From your experience in Cambodia, how can organisations save time and reduce errors in their day to day accounting and analysis tasks?

Benaim: Many organisations do not quite understand how to unleash the full potential of accounting software so they duplicate work. As an example, they do not realise that accounting software creates and manages invoicing outstandingly. They often create invoices in Microsoft Word, then manually type it in a second time into their accounting system, thus duplicating work, creating more errors and missing out on the features that the accounting software was built for.

Excel 2016 is about twice as powerful and complex as Excel 2003, redoing a report which they did last month could be set up to be 10 clicks away. Most organisations spend hours and hours getting to result instead, and the multi hour method often has many more errors.