Microsoft Excel is the backbone of the world's financial industry. Investment banking analysts rely on Excel to create models, to do analysis, and to track financial data points. They also rely on Excel to be able to create charts and tables for their pitch decks to prospective investors or companies. In order to support users PitchBook has an plugin for Excel where users can pull data, create charts, use templates, etc. Prior to this release the plugin was only available on Windows.
When looking at the operating system breakdown of PitchBook users, ~30% of users are Mac users. That would mean that about 30% of our users do not have the ability to use the PitchBook plugin, thus meaning they would have to download static Excel workbooks from the web platform with data to do their modeling, and if it needs to be refreshed? They would have to redownload it.
In addition, the current plugin does not work online. So for users who prefer to use Excel Online they too don't have a plugin they can use, and in this increasingly mobile world the need for flexibility of working online vs. on a computer application is critical for some.
Microsoft Fluent Design Library
~30% of PitchBook users are on Mac - meaning they cannot use the PitchBook Plugin for Excel.
The current plugin also does not work for Excel Online users.
With all of that in mind I decided to go with the Microsoft Fluent Design System, this allowed us to have a plugin that looked and behaved like native Excel, saved me time since I didn't have to develop a new system, and saved our developers time since there is a Fluent library of components they could reference and pull from.
Building the plugin for Mac and Online with the same features as the Windows version would take 2+ years for the development team, in order to release the plugin more quickly we narrowed down the included features to only the most necessary ones for the introductory version of the plugin and over time we would add more of them.
Formula Builder - Allows users to create formulas that leverage PitchBook's data.
Template Library - A list of pre-made templates to save time creating things like a tear sheet or comps set.
Entity Search - Ability to search through all the tracked companies, funds, people, etc.
Field Search - Ability to search all the data points PitchBook has.
Saved Searches - Allows users to create a search on the PitchBook platform and then use the companies from that search in Excel
Refresh - Update data.
Unlink - Disconnect the data from the PitchBook database.
Settings, Open PitchBook, etc.
After we decided on the design system and the features I got to work on designing the plugin, to do this I worked closely with our developers to understand the limitations of Excel. This required me to design 125+ screens.
Since we went with the Fluent design system and the functionality for most features would be the same as our Windows versions I was able to go straight to high fidelity designs.
I wanted the first thing that a user sees when they open the plugin to convey the value the plugin would give them. To do this I designed a side bar that would open before a user logs in that would show the value points of the plugin, allow users to log in, or get more information on PitchBook.
Arguably the most important feature of the plugin, this allows users to create formulas that leverage PitchBook's data. Analysts use these formulas in their models, as the basis for charting, to keep track of data over time, and more.
This was one feature that we had to completely redesign as the layout of the Windows version could no longer handle the needs of the user and would not fit with the limitations of Excel anymore. To understand how best to do this I interviewed 3 users and 4 PitchBook customer support employees to best understand the workflow when creating a formula. Through these conversations I concluded that when creating a formula a user first thinks about the data point they are looking for, the company they want to reference, and then the other data point specific inputs such as do they want the data point quarterly or annually. With this in mind I designed the flow of the new formula builder to match the users workflow.
- I made sure to give users the ability to search for their data point across all of the sections from the beginning so if they knew what they wanted they could jump straight to the inputs (photo 3).
- I made sure that users could reference data points in cells incase they wanted to reference multiple cells with data points with all the same inputs
- I designed the formula builder in such a way that users could easily use it without their mouse, as most analysts use their keyboard instead of their mouse when using Excel.
The PitchBook Plugin for Excel has 36+ pre-made templates for users to use to help them save time on their analyses. These templates include tear sheets, comp sets, investor profiles, etc.
Using saved searches you can create a saved search on the PitchBook website and then reference the results within the Excel plugin. This is especially helpful if a user is creating a search of companies to create a comparison analysis in Excel.
Entity search enables users to search across all the companies, people, funds, etc. that PitchBook tracks to reference in formulas.
The fields search allows users to search across all the data points PitchBook offers. This is helpful when users want to create a dynamic spreadsheet where their formulas reference cells with the datapoint name in them.
In order to generate awareness to not only the plugin for Mac and Online, but also the Windows plugin my Product Manager and I partnered with Product Marketing to create a marketing campaign. The campaign consisted of a callout for the plugin in the monthly customer bulletin email, an pop up on the platform announcing the release, and a paragraph in the new feature blog post on the PitchBook blog.
To help with the effort, I wrote the copy for the email and for the pop up on the platform.
The PitchBook plugin for Mac and Online released at the end of March 2021. In the first month 50% of users who we would expect to use the plugin used it in the first month and in the week the pop-up announcing the release was active we had a 6% increase in users to the Windows plugin.