It’s been a little over a month ago since the U.S. Office of Management and Budget released a proposed blueprint for the 2018 budget . Comparing to the 2017 budget , largest cuts (in terms of the funding amount) would affect Health and Human Services, Agency for International Development (USAID), Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) *, and Agriculture departments. Departments of Defense, Veteran Affairs, and Homeland Security will be the largest beneficiaries of the new plan, all receiving a substantial boost in funding. To make this plan a reality, the Congress will have to approve this proposal next month, something that would be quite a hard sell based on the current reception of the budget.

* * Excluding HUD receipts – a placeholder and subject to change as detailed estimates under the Administrationâ€™s economic and technical assumptions for the full Budget are finalized.*

The only department appearing on the top 5 list in terms of YoY % decrease, in addition to absolute amount cuts is USAID, dropping 29%. The other “losers” include: the Labor department and Department of Agriculture (both losing 21% of their prior year budget dollars), and Army Corps of Engineers (17% drop.) The biggest cut is sustained by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shedding 31% of its funding, including the climate change research project.

The opposite side of the scales includes General Services Administration, Department of Defense (10% increase), Homeland Security (7% surge), Veteran Affairs (6% jump comparing to last year), and unchanged Social Security Administration. It looks like there is a definitely an attempt to fund the effort to make America strong*er* through investments in military and security operations. At the same time, the “softer” initiatives: foreign aid and environment see their funding slashed.

** Budget 2018 ** proposal, (excluding Defense department.)

Below is the summary of the 2018 US budget draft: make sure to click on the ‘Full Screen’ icon for better experience.

Microsoft Excel is one of those great software applications that empowers us to do a lot of different things. You can create art masterpieces , convert digital photos into pixel worksheets , create a cool animation , build a flight simulator , or play a game of Tetris . If you don’t feel ambitious enough to write pages upon pages of VBA code, but still want to do something practical with the program, perhaps you want to learn how to perform different conversion calculations in Excel? In fact, ** CONVERSION ** function enables you to convert weight, distance, time, pressure, force, energy, power magnetism, temperature, volume, liquid measure, area, information, and speed measures from one unit to another. The later version of Microsoft Excel you are running the more conversions you can perform. If you are working in Excel 2003 or earlier, this function is not available on earlier versions of Microsoft Excel.

This function uses easy to understand syntax: ** CONVERT ** (* Number * to be converted, * From_unit * text string specifying current unit to be converted __ from __, and * To_unit * text string specifying unit to be converted __ to __. In the rare case of an error during conversion calculation, the ** #N/A ** error typically flags incompatible units of conversion, OR conversion unit is not available. ** #VALUE! ** is displayed when the number parameter provided is not numeric.

** Weight ** conversions.

Did you know that 1 * slug * weights as much as 2.3 * stones * or 32.17 * pounds **, or 225,218 ** grains *?! Well, now you do.

` = CONVERT(A5,"sg","stone") `

tells Excel to take in value in cell A5, assume that this value represents slugs and convert it to stones.

Changing the last parameter from “stone” to “lbm”, we will have a pounds equivalent of a slug:

` = CONVERT(A9,"sg","lbm") `

Below you can find more examples of the Weight conversions, keep in mind that adding prefixes, such as ** kilo ** will multiple the values by the factor of 10, in the case of ** kilo ** that would be a thousand:

** Time ** conversions.

Performing time conversion tasks is a rather straight-forward task. Assuming that cell A5 will have a value of 1, typing the below formula will yield the answer 365 (* days * in a * year. *)

` = CONVERT(A5,"yr","day") `

While you don’t necessarily need Excel to learn the “insight” from the question above, you might be impressed to know that there are 31,557,600 (!) seconds in one year – use them wisely:

** Distance ** conversions.

While you might already know that there are 1.61 * kilometers * in a * mile * and 2.54 * centimeters * in an * inch * you might need to learn that there are 1.09 * yards * in a * meter *:

` = CONVERT(A7,"m","yd") `

** Pressure ** conversions.

It’s useful to know that roughly 2 * atms * (atmoshperic pressure to pound of foce per square inch) will keep your car tires inflated. Each * atm * is equivalent to 14.7 * psi * (pound of force per square inch), or 760 * Torr *, or 101,325 * Pascals *:

` = CONVERT(A5,"atm","psi") `

` = CONVERT(A7,"atm","Torr") `

` = CONVERT(A9,"atm","PA") `

** Force ** conversions.

Building on the above, we learn that one * pound of force * equals 4.45 * Newtons *, or 444,822 * Dynes. *

` = CONVERT(A5,"lbf","N") `

` = CONVERT(A7,"lbf","dyn") `

** Power ** conversions.

It’s interesting to learn that one mechanical * horse power * equates to 745.7 * Watts * (power of system transferring one Joule of energy per second).

` = CONVERT(A5,"HP","W") `

** Energy ** conversions.

Aggregating watts to hours, we have 1 * watt-hour * containing 3.41 * BTUs *.

` = CONVERT(A13,"wh","BTU") `

** Magnetism ** conversions.

One * Tesla * (not a car, but a unit of measurement) is equal to 10,000 * Gauss *.

` = CONVERT(A5,"T","ga") `

** Temperature ** conversions.

Most of the Midwest and North-Eastern US truly enjoyed unusually warm winter this year. Now that the temperature is dropping to 1 degree * Celsius * , we might need to know that it’s equivalent of 33.8 degrees of * Fahrenheit *, or 274 degrees * Kelvin *:

** Area ** conversions.

Buying vacant land is one of the alternative investments to consider when seeking long-term returns with little up-front costs. Perhaps you want to start building your land portfolio with one * hectare *, that is equal to 10,000 * square meters *, should you want to start big, perhaps one * square * or 259 hectares is more your pace?!

` = CONVERT(A19,"h","m2") `

` = CONVERT(A5,"mi2","ha") `

** Speed ** conversions.

Speaking about speed, one * knot * measures the speed equivalent to 1.15 * miles per hour *, or 1.85 * kilometers per hour *. Note that ** mph ** is an actual measurement unit recognized by Excel, while ** km/h ** might not be as obvious:

` = CONVERT(A5,"kh","mph") `

` = CONVERT(A7,"kh","km/h") `

** Information ** conversions.

Hopefully you are not one of those people that use * bytes * and * bits * interchangeably. After all, there are 8 * bits * in every * byte *. Doing some quick Excel calculations might help the cause of eliminating the confusion between our Internet service providers quoting our connection speeds in Mega*bits* per second, but various online storage providers citing file sizes in Mega*Bytes*:

` = CONVERT(A5,"byte","bit") `

** Liquid Measure ** conversions.

Last, but not least, liquid measure conversions are not to be missed by anyone who likes to cook or bake a perfect recipe. I wouldn’t want to measure all 48 * teaspons * individually to get to a full * cup *; since there are three * teaspoons * per * Tablespoon *, I would resist it, but be more open to that measure.

Please leave a comment about the conversion function you performed after downloading ** workbook ** provided.

Versatility of Excel’s built-in functions is undeniably one of the main reasons behind this program’s popularity. As users, we have the flexibility to compose complex formulas incorporating multiple functions in our solution to achieve substantial gains in productivity. Most people have their own go-to Excel functions, be it: financial, date & time, math & trigonometry, statistics, look up & reference, database, text (manipulation), or logical. We’ve covered some of these functions already, but below is a compilation of 17 relatively under-used Excel functions you might want to add to your professional repertoire in the new year. Fair warning, you might need to have Office 365 version of Excel for all of the functions to work.

1.** PMT**

2.** DATEDIF**

3.** LARGE**

4.** REPT**

5.** LEN**

6.** TRIM**

7.** SUBSTITUTE**

8.** TEXT**

9.** IFS**

10.** CONVERT**

11.** NETWORKDAYS**

12.** HLOOKUP**

13.** INDIRECT**

14.** OFFSET**

15.** TRANSPOSE**

16.** DSUM**

17.** RAND**

BONUS:** SUMPRODUCT**

** 1. PMT ** function.

As we approached the end of the year and start reflecting on the future, personal finances might take the central stage for many of us. If anyone is in the market for a new home, car, boat, motorcycle, ATV, RV, or even an exotic pet, the **PMT** function can help us calculate a monthly loan payment for the loan we are contemplating on undertaking. Chevy Spark is one of the least expensive cars on the market today, let’s calculate if we can afford it. **PMT** functions requires input of loan interest rate, number of payments you will be making, and loan amount. Two important things to keep in mind with this function: 1) while you are likely making * monthly * payments, your interest rate is typically * annual *; 2) since loan payment is considered to be a cash outflow, it’s a negative number by default. In our example, making a 10% down payment on a $ 13,000 car purchase and taking a 5-year 3% APR loan, we would be making 60 ** $ 210.23 ** payments until the car is fully paid of, and the bank collects $ 914.02 in interest over the life of this loan.

** 2. DATEDIF ** function.

While the **DATEDIF** function is one and possibly the only “undocumented” Excel function (there is no official Microsoft documentation to be found on this subject), it is still a highly useful gem in calculating date/time intervals : * Start Date *, * End Date *, and time interval: **D** for days, **M** for months, **Y** for years, etc. :

** 3. LARGE ** function.

Surely you’ve used the ** MAX ** function to retrieve the highest number in the range, what about the * third * largest? This is where the **LARGE** function comes in. You need to specify your array of values and the * n-th * descending order to make this function work. Courtesy of the US Social Security administration, we can look up the most popular baby names in Michigan :

** 4. REPT ** function.

Who knew that you could visualize your data using Excel functions? Indeed, the **REPT** function (which repeats a certan character * n * number of times), in conjunction with the special font such as * Webdings * allows you to create impressive-looking in-line pseudo-charts. Why not use the baby name data to plot the most popular baby names by gender:

** 5. LEN ** function.

Text-manipulation functions are unsung heroes of Excel calculations. Naturally, anyone can calculate number of letters in good, ole’ U.S. of A, what about “Democratic Republic of the Congo”?! This is where the **LEN** function (calculates number of characters/letters in a word) comes to the rescue:

** 6. TRIM ** function.

Another interesting text-manipulation function is the **TRIM** function, which easily cleans up visible and hidden extra blanks occurring during data imports from an external data source.

** 7. SUBSTITUTE ** function.

There are not many things in our lives that are absolute constant and never change. Why not use the **SUBSTITUTE** function to replace old values and/or text with the new ones:

** 8. TEXT ** function.

Modestly named, **TEXT** function is a real formatting powerhouse of the Excel functions, able to take on text, number, and date formats with ease:

** 9. IFS ** function.

The newest kid on the block and one of the most anticipated Excel functions of all times, the **IFS** function helps make the * nested * IF constraint a memory of your worst nightmare. This function is so new, it wouldn’t even work in Excel 2015, you would need to have updated version of Excel 365 to use it.

** 10. CONVERT ** function.

If you’re like most people, you’ve never heard of this function, yet can easily guess what it does. Temperature, distance, volume, weight, and so many other types of conversions can be performed using the **CONVERT** function:

** 11. NETWORKDAYS ** function.

To calculate the number of days passed between two dates, we can either use a simple subtraction, or previously mentioned ** DATEDIF ** function. This task becomes more complicated if we need to exclude weekends and company-recognized holidays. With the **NETWORKDAYS** function we could accomplish this goal by specifying * Start Date *, * End Date *, and the array of holidays:

** 12. HLOOKUP ** function.

You might not realize this yet, but the infamous ** VLOOKUP ** function is not the only * lookup * type function in Excel. **HLOOKUP** function allows us to perform * horizontal * lookups. Let’s say we needed to retrieve the fifth ranking country in terms of medals won in 2012 Summer Olympics :

** 13. INDIRECT ** function.

In case you’re ever required to retrieve a value of one cell based on cell reference from another, you will be pleased to know that there is an Excel function for that, it’s called: **INDIRECT**.

** 14. OFFSET ** function.

Anyone who is looking for an impressive function to use during their job interview process to differentiate themselves from the ** VLOOKUP ** and ** INDEX/MATCH ** crowds, can turn to the **OFFSET** function:

** 15. TRANSPOSE ** function.

It’s hard to believe, but Excel has a dedicated function to rotate columns and rows: the **TRANSPOSE** function. Since this is an * array * type of function, it must be entered using the ** CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER ** key combination.

** 16. DSUM ** function.

Among other function types, Excel has a * database * type. A cousin of the ** SUMIFS ** function, **DSUM** function adds the numbers in a database or list that match conditions you specify in your worksheet:

** 17. RAND ** function.

Random number generation can come in handy during the creation of secure passwords, however you would have to get inventive to bypass 0 to 1 range limitation of the **RAND** function, or why not customize your own range, via the **RANDBETWEEN** function? Keep in mind that both of these functions are * volatile * and will recalculate dynamically.

** BONUS (!). SUMPRODUCT** function.

There is not much need to sell you on using one (!) function that can sum, count, or find an average, minimum, maximum, product, standard deviation, variance: all on its own. If still not convinced in utter usefulness of the **SUMPRODUCT** function, consider the fact that it actually recalculates based on the * filtered * rows:

Did I miss any of * your * favorite functions?!

You can follow all of the examples listed above via the file ** download **.

Making * Rent vs. Buy * decisions always seemed like a no-brainer to me. If you hold on to your purchase long enough, you will be saving money: be it a car or a computer software. Case in point: it costs only **$ 109.99** to purchase a license for Excel 2016 vs **$69.99/year** to lease Office 365 Personal, which includes Excel, as well as other Office products. Assuming you only need to use one product that truly matters, and you will use it for more than 19 months, buying is cheaper than renting. The longer you use the product without upgrading, the more money you save. This held true until February of this year, when Microsoft introduced 6 new functions available exclusively to Office 365 subscribers: TEXTJOIN, CONCAT, IFS, SWITCH, MAXIFS and MINIFS. This addition alone, coupled with introduction of Funnel charts might steer more users towards the subscription model. In this post we will review the **IFS** and **SWITCH** functions. Let’s say goodbye to nested if functions , we have already discussed on this blog.

Whenever we need to accommodate for more than one outcome, using Nested IFs formulas **=IF(IF(IF(IF())))** is very useful from the perspective of a patience-building exercise, otherwise the concept of the **CASE** logic seems to be a more natural fit here . While Microsoft supports the SELECT CASE statement in Excel’s VBA environment, as well as on its SQL Server platform, many Excel users added native support of this logic on their Excel wish list . Our voices were finally heard with the release of the **IFS** and **SWITCH** functions.

To illustrate how the **IFS()** function works, let’s first go through a simple exercise of assigning a letter grade to students’ test scores. Following a typical GPA chart we would have the following:

We will first use **SELECT CASE** functionality via user-defined VBA function (let’s call it ** LetterGrade **) to calculate letter grades as shown below:

Translating GPA chart into VBA code, our function would look like so:

Function LetterGrade(TestScore As Integer) 'To Calcuate a letter grade for any given test score Select Case TestScore Case 0 To 59 LetterGrade = "F" Case 60 To 62 LetterGrade = "D-" Case 63 To 66 LetterGrade = "D" Case 67 To 69 LetterGrade = "D+" Case 70 To 72 LetterGrade = "C-" Case 73 To 76 LetterGrade = "C" Case 77 To 79 LetterGrade = "C+" Case 80 To 82 LetterGrade = "B-" Case 83 To 86 LetterGrade = "B" Case 87 To 89 LetterGrade = "B+" Case 90 To 92 LetterGrade = "A-" Case 93 To 96 LetterGrade = "A" Case 97 To 100 LetterGrade = "A+" Case Else LetterGrade = "Unknown" End Select End Function

You don’t have to have any VBA programming background to follow logic powering this solution. Plugging in **=LetterGrade(D4)** formula into cell **E4**, Ammie’s test score of 74 is translated into letter grade **C**. Another way to solve this problem is through the nested IF functionality, we will use this formula:

=IF(D4>=97,"A+",IF(D4>92,"A",IF(D4>89,"A-",IF(D4>=87,"B+",IF(D4>82,"B",IF(D4>79,"B-",IF(D4>=77,"C+",IF(D4>72,"C",IF(D4>69,"C-",IF(D4>=67,"D+",IF(D4>62,"D",IF(D4>59,"D-", IF(D4<60,"F") ))))))))))))

Surely this solution beats having to incorporate VBA macros in your code, but it’s hardly easy to follow or maintain. This is where the new **IFS** function comes into play:

=IFS([Something is True1, Value if True1, …[Something is True**N**, Value if True**N],**)

In fact, the below formula is the closest Excel has ever come to using the CASE logic, simplifying our formulas by leaps and bounds:

=IFS(D4>92, 4, D4>89,3.7, D4>=87,3.3,D4>82, 3, D4>79,2.7, D4>=77,2.3, D4>72,2, D4>69,1.7, D4>=67,1.3, D4>62, 1, D4>59,0.7, D4<60, 0)

One downside of this solution is the absence of catch all condition, that is readily available via nested IF functionality. You can however, use the **TRUE** condition, or perhaps incorporate **IFERROR** function to fill in the gaps. Speaking of eliminating ambiguity, **SWITCH** function comes equipped with a default argument to deal with unexpected inputs:

=SWITCH(expression, value1, result1,.. [default or value**N**, result**N**])

**SWITCH** function is rather similar to **IFS** in a way it is finding a match for a certain condition, but avoids the need to specify a series of conditional statements. Suppose we want to assign description to different days of the week:

Using the **SWITCH** function, we have the flexibility of flagging an invalid/unexpected input:

=SWITCH(A2,"Monday","Happy Monday","Tuesday","Slump Day","Wednesday","Hump Day", "Thursday", "Almost Weekend", "Friday","TGIF","Saturday","Weekend","Sunday","Weekend","Invalid Day")

Unfortunately, the **IFS** function solution does not allow for this flexibility:

=IFS(B4="Monday","Happy Monday",B4="Tuesday","Slump Day",B4="Wednesday","Hump Day",B4="Thursday","Almost Weekend",B4="Friday","TGIF",B4="Saturday","Weekend",B4="Sunday","Weekend")

**Bonus Solution** to the * Letter Grade * problem is using almighty **VLOOKUP** function. If you use this function often enough you would probably agree that the default value set for the optional parameter of **Range_lookup** is not overly helpful. In fact, in most cases we are looking for an *exact * match rather than the *closest * one. Our current scenario is the perfect example why we would ever use the closest match. Assuming our lookup data range is sorted in ascending order, we will create a named range and call it **LKP_GPA** (CTRL + SHIFT + F3):

=VLOOKUP(D4,LKP_GPA,3)

would provide the most elegant solution thus far, VBA macro non-withstanding…

Feel free to ** download ** Excel workbook with the examples used in this post.

Do you have any good examples on using either IFS or SWITCH functions?

I spent the last few areas of my working life practicing the fine art of Web Analytics while supporting Digital Marketing efforts of my employers. As a typical analyst I try to think critically, and the most common feedback I get is that I need to think like a * marketer * , not an analyst (e.g. impressions are great for building a brand, even though they don’t directly result in any meaningful eCommerce activity). Sure, I’ve taken my share of Marketing courses in school and am familiar with all 4 P’s of Marketing , yet I felt that I still needed some concrete proof of my digital marketing acumen to establish a level of trust needed to implement my ideas. Hence I found myself researching top Digital Marketing certifications that hopefully wouldn’t break the bank. After careful consideration I set my eye on the following: Google Analytics (I suspect there is no need to introduce **GAIQ** ), Google AdWords (Between Paid Search, Display, Video, and Mobile, Google has the bases of most paid channels covered, while also introducing some SEO concepts in the process), HubSpot (HubSpot should be familiar to any Marketing professional, since they pioneered the idea of Inbound Marketing; among other certifications they offer Inbound, and Email Marketing certifications). Finally, the most crowded digital marketing channel is arguably Social Media; as a top player in the Social field, I was hoping that HootSuite certification is one of the most reputable of the bunch. With the only channel missing from this mix being Affiliates Marketing, I embarked on the journey of earning these certifications earlier this month. Okay, I must admit I should have probably sat for these certifications sooner, but better late than never, right?!

**Cost**

First things first, the great news is that each one of these certification authorities offers completely free training. The only one that charges for the privilege of taking the certification exam is HootSuite. Considering the fact that Google used to charge $ 50 for its exams (there is one exam for Google Analytics and two exams for the Google AdWords track), the $ 199 HootSuite charge seems doable. If you’re on a tight budget, you can skip HootSuite certification, but still go through their training videos for free.

**Content**

All three companies provide self-paced online training. Depending on your familiarity with the topics tested, it’s rather realistic to spend less than 6 hours preparing for each test, with Google exams requiring larger effort on your end. Each of these certs could make for an excellent weekend project. I personally found HubSpot Academy producing the most quality content of the bunch. One can supplement highly organized instruction videos with downloadable presentation slides as well as full transcripts of the videos if you need them. Additionally, all of the relevant external resources (additional blog posts, videos, and files) can be easily located under the “Additional Resources” section. If all of this was not enough, I have never seen any other training providers presenting a lecture first, followed by a real-world example demonstrating practical applications of the theoretical concepts taught. In terms of the videos themselves, all of the content is presented by instructors speaking clearly and to the point. Finally, ability to play the content at a faster pace (in 5% increments) is the definition of time-saving.

HootSuite came in a close second in my somewhat subjective ranking. In addition to them offering highly-organized content and downloadable materials, they also offer quizzes to test your understanding of the concepts taught. Surprisingly, Google seemed to be the least impressive educational provider. Their video lessons didn’t seem to follow a logical structure and often called for using additional KnowledgeBase materials. Individual classes are not available for download, but one can download a Study Guide for the entire course. They did put interactive quizzes to a good use throughout the course. An option to change the pace of the presentation did not seem to be available either.

**Exam Experience**

All of the reviewed certifications are taken online from the convenience of your own computer at any time that works best for you. You need to pass only one exam to earn your certification with the exception of Google AdWords, which requires two exams (one required plus one elective). You can learn your results as soon as you hit the “Submit” button. Who needs better proof that the Digital Age can in fact provide instant gratification?

Many of the Google exam questions asked me to choose the best answer. Since it is possible that ALL answers were correct, picking the best one is a challenge requiring a better understanding of the material tested. Some of the HubSpot questions followed this suite, but HubSpot does require 75% accuracy to pass their exams, compared with Google’s 80%. While HootSuite requires an 80% passing score as well, the exam felt like the easiest of the three providers with most questions listing clearly incorrect answers, making the task of choosing correct answer rather simple.

In addition, passing Google exams requires actual experience in Digital Marketing in general and in Google Analytics/AdWords specifically. All of the HubSpot and HootSuite exams can be passed strictly by taking their preparation courses, no previous experience in the field is needed.

You will have 75 minutes to answer 60 questions for HubSpot certifications (both Inbound and Email Marketing) and 60 minutes to answer 60 questions for the HootSuite Social Media Marketing exam. Required AdWords Fundamentals exam of the Google AdWords certification track allows 120 minutes to answer 100 questions. Depending on the elective that you choose for the second exam (Search Advertising, Display Advertising, Mobile Advertising, Video Advertising, or Shopping Advertising) you will have either 120 minutes to answer 100 questions or 90 minutes to answer 70 questions.

Should you be unfortunate enough to not pass your exam from the first attempt, each certification authority offers rather lenient exam retake policies. In case of Google, you will need to wait 7 days to test your skills again. HubSpot makes you wait only 48 hours with a maximum of three attempts every 30 days. HootSuite did not publish the specifics of its retake policy, it appears that there are no restrictions on when you can sit for the exam again. One thing we know for sure is that HootSuite will not charge you for any consecutive examination attempts.

**Overall Value**

As mentioned previously, Google does have a substantial brand name recognition to create a clout of reputability for its certification exams. Both, HubSpot and HootSuite offer a certain level of niche recognition as well. My take on the study materials is that all three providers offer great content that can be used by both beginners as well as seasoned professionals in the field. While Google does get into some details of running and executing specific campaigns, HubSpot’s ability to utilize real-world scenarios and examples is simply unprecedented. There is no better way to learn a new concept than to practice it through a real world exercise.

**Ways to brag**

Once you clear your certifications you can add them to your LinkedIn profile as well as your resume. All three companies provide an easy way to verify your certification status. Google is really serious about its policy on communicating your certification attainment. You can make it available on your Google Partner’s page, or you can print your certificate of accomplishment for further dissemination.

HubSpot offers different ways to show off your certification from the customizable badges similar to the ones below to a listing on their partner directory. HootSuite allows you to create your own profile and an easy way to share your exam certificate .

If you are after more formal and comprehensive training in Digital Marketing, two other places (albeit not necessarily free) to try would be: Market Motive and Coursera’s Digital Marketing specialization.

What is your certification story? Do you find certifications relevant or not worthy of your time and effort?