Microsoft’s Excel’s Stock data type is premature

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Microsoft can’t help itself from releasing a product or feature before it’s ready.  They’ve done it again with a premature public release of Excel 365’s Stock and Geography data types.

Excel 365’s Linked Data Types feature promises to be a great innovation.  At long last there’s a simple way to get current financial information into worksheets.  Google Sheets has company/stock data for years. Our book Real Time Excel has workarounds for pre-Office 365 users.

Excel’s underlying technology for searching and retrieving linked data seems sound. It’s a good basis for Microsoft and its customers to work from.

Despite that, Excel 365 Stock data type risks getting a bad reputation.  It’s been released prematurely.  Anyone trying the current Stock service is likely to be so confused or mislead that they’ll give up in frustration. That’s a shame because there are improvements coming soon that Microsoft should have waited for.

It’s the data, stupid

The data feed from Microsoft’s servers is the problem.  Microsoft gets their stock data from outside contractors (Redmond is quick to shift responsibility to their data suppliers).  Merging the information from around 60 different exchanges and many different stock types has proven a lot more difficult than expected.

Microsoft can’t even display Microsoft’s own stock correctly! You’d think, of all the companies in the world, they’d get MSFT right.  It’s a sign of the difficulties in Stock data wrangling that here’s what Excel 365 customers see for Microsoft’s stock on multiple exchanges.

MSFT stock listing from Excel 365/Windows on 23 Nov 2018. There seems to be duplicate listings for ‘MSF’ on the Xetra exchange (they are really two different instruments) and they are priced in Euro, not USD. The Mexican exchange lists in Pesos not USD (the amount is correct but the wrong currency code & symbol).

Can you rely on Excel 365’s stock data type?

Yes, once you’ve found the correct stock.  The problem is finding the correct stock from the thousands (millions?) available.  Make sure the ticker/exchange code is right and format for the stock is correct (eg currency). Do that by comparing the Excel 365 result with a Google or Yahoo Finance page.

Once you have the correct stock setup, the price and other data should be accurate.

Microsoft’s legalese disclaimers apply “Financial market information is provided ‘as-is’ and not for trading purposes or advice.”

That raises the obvious question; if financial info isn’t for trading or advice … what IS it good for?

Before making any big decisions, check the price and other data you’re relying upon with other sources.  That’s good advice for any financial data source, not just from Excel 365.

More than just Excel

Microsoft’s financial data feed problems have been around for some time.  Investment regulars know that Google Finance or Yahoo Finance are better sites for financial data than Microsoft’s Bing.

Bing uses the same data sources as Excel 365 and you can sometimes see why the Excel 365 Stock data is wrong because the same error appears in Bing.

The big financial data switch

The financial data problems are so bad that Microsoft is switching financial data suppliers.  The Excel 365 Stock data type will change to Refinitiv (formerly Thomson Reuters Finance & Risk).  The change won’t affect existing worksheets (touchwood).  The quality of data and search result had better improve, though there are sure to be more problems during the changeover.

Office-Watch.com will have more on the financial data switch as it happens.  Officially the change is happening before the end of the year but it’s a ‘non-trivial’ job (nerd speak for ‘difficult’) so look to early 2019 instead.

Why release early?

Why did Microsoft go public now, when the data feed for Stock data is so flawed that it’s changing in a few months,?  Surely the prudent path was to continue the Insiders testing until the new (hopefully better) financial data source is ready in just a few months?

Who knows? Maybe Microsoft felt it had to go public because they (foolishly) announced an October release at their Ignite 2018 conference?

History repeats itself

Microsoft has made this mistake before. It’s a behavior that seems deeply ingrained in their corporate DNA.  To name just four, Word’s Master Documents, Windows 8’s Start Menu, the Edge browser and infamous Clippy were all released early, ignoring the bug reports.

Excel 365’s Stock data type runs the risk of joining that list of premature releases that unfairly get a bad reputation.

Microsoft rewrites their history to erase mistakes from corporate memory, which ensures they’ll do it all over again. In Microsoft’s ‘retconned‘ version of events, it’s the customers who got it wrong, not the company.

Geography data type is worse

Don’t get us started about the Geography data type.  Look past Microsoft’s hype and it’s just ‘web page scraping’ which isn’t fit for purpose. Nothing has changed since we publicly noted the nonsense results months ago.

Tell Microsoft!

What can paying customers do to get Stock data type fixed?  Use it and tell Microsoft about problems.

How to report bugs or deficiencies in Excel 365’s linked data types

Bug reports and bad data reports have many uses beyond the specific problem you’re raising. Bugs reports tell Microsoft they have to get the S**T together data normalization for Excel 365.

The feedback gives Microsoft executives a better idea of how people are using the new feature, which is already happening in ways not anticipated by developers.

If there are stock exchanges missing from the current list, ask for them to be added.  The current support for mutual funds, trusts and indexes could be better. Ask Microsoft to include any missing funds or other listed instruments you’d like to see.

In the meantime, combined bug reports tell Microsoft that data quality is as important as the Excel software itself.

A few mouse clicks to report bugs will do more good than cursing your computer screen.


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