Microsoft Excel comes as one of the essential apps in the Microsoft Office pack. Now, while we might be familiar with it by its description, which says that it is spreadsheet software developed by Microsoft, it is much more than that. Excel packs many features that can help you pivot tables, utilize graphing tools, and do calculations by using custom made and built-in formulas.
The main question is how to use it for business purposes. It is important to know that Excel is a very delicate piece of software that packs serious power under the hood. This is why I’ve decided to let you in on the 3 must-know business uses for Microsoft Excel.
Note: The Excel features I’ll be talking about in this article are available in Excel 2016.
Data Management Guru
The spreadsheet nature of this software renders it a powerful data entry and storage tool. Excel spreadsheets can contain as much as ~1 million rows and ~16 thousand columns. Some businesses use Excel to store information about employees, customers, mailing lists, and more. One of the features, Data Form, brings data management to the next level.
If you want to become a data management guru, you absolutely have to start using Data Form. It will allow you to display/enter one row of data in a range or tables. When using Data Form, you will be able to see every column and all the data from a raw. This is especially useful when you have a big spreadsheet with a lot of rows.
You can start by adding labels for each column. These labels will be the fields of your Data Form. To start filling the data into your new form, select the row cell you want to start with, click on the Data menu and select Form. Click on “New” and start the data entry process. It’s that easy, and it will make data input a lot faster.
To make the data entry process even easier and quicker, you can use the drop down list. It is the best option when the field can contain predetermined values of data. For example, In Stock/Out of Stock.
Pro Tip: Add Data Form to Ribbon by clicking File > Options > Customize Ribbon > Form.
Learn to Forecast
Forecasting is one of the more advanced Excel features. When you master it, you will be able to forecast some important business metrics so that you can get ready for any possible scenario awaiting you in the future. You can use it, for instance, for financial projections, by using all the historical time-based data you have gathered so far. In many business scenarios, knowing Microsoft Excel is a crucial skill.
For instance, you can have date/time entries in one column, while you can have values for expenses for that date/time in the other. By using Excel forecast, you can predict the approximate values for future dates.
In order to get more accurate results, make sure to use data consistent with time intervals. In our example, you can evaluate and enter business expenses by the end of each week or month.
To get the forecast, you have to select both of your data columns; go into the Data tab and select the Forecast group. Click on the Forecast Sheet and you will get a Forecast box. Pick either column or line chart as a visual representation. Now, you have to pick the start and end date of your Forecast and click on Create.
Make The Most of the Data
Forecasting is not the only Microsoft Excel feature that allows you to analyze data. If you already have a spreadsheet with a lot of data entries, you can use the Pivot Tables feature to analyze the data and get a clear insight into each segment that interests you in particular. You can also apply neat filters that will allow you to swap data fields so that you can get the table that only displays the data you want.
Before you start, make sure that you don’t have empty columns or rows, and to have the same data type in one column (text, date, numeric values). To use the Pivot Table feature you have to click on a cell in your table, and then click Insert > Tables. Now, if you are inexperienced, you can choose the Recommended PivotTable, which will automatically analyze data and offer you several options. Or, you can select PivotTable and do everything manually.
When you create your Pivot Table, you can do numerous things with the data. For instance, you can summarize values by columns and rows. If you want to get a more clear view of your data, you can use the “Show Values as Percentage” option. This will change all numerical values to percentages of the summed up value.
It is important to note that Pivot Tables do not automatically update themselves. So, if you update your original table with new data, you will have to update your Pivot Table too. This is done by clicking anywhere on the Pivot Table and selecting PivotTable Tools > Analyze > Refresh in main menu. If you are using multiple Pivot Tables, you will need to do the same procedure as above and to choose the “Refresh All” option. If you want to delete the Pivot Table, you simply select its entire range and press Delete.
Pro Tip: Make a new sheet in your Excel document and use it as a Dedicated Pivot Table sheet. This will add more structure to your document and it will allow you to easily delete or refresh any of Pivot Tables.
These are just some of the uses for Excel in the workplace. Please note that it features a macro programming language called Visual Basic for Applications. This means that, in cooperation with IT specialists in your company, you can do wonders with this app.
If this topic has interested you, feel free to look for more uses, tips and tricks for Microsoft Excel. It’s been on the market for quite some time now, and there is a lot of valuable information you can find about it online.