How Excel can unlock the data in your business

Does a page full of numbers (or even a table full of text) have you reaching for the headache pills? Then Excel formulas might be a cheaper and healthier alternative…

Even if spreadsheets don’t bring you out in a cold sweat, it’s worth considering others who find them a challenge. With the right approach, a spreadsheet can quickly turn a simple table into a resource that you (and they) can understand and interpret. And it can deliver genuinely useful information that isn’t easily available in any other way.

1.  Understand formulas for easy, accurate calculations

Formulas are your key to unlocking the full power of your spreadsheets, and luckily you don’t need the brain power of an Einstein to use them. They’re your way of creating and exploiting relationships between similar pieces of information.

The simplest example is probably the SUM formula, which adds up a group of numbers and displays the total. Just tell it which cells you want to work on, and Excel will do the rest.

Other formulas can perform complex mathematics. Or process text entries. Or even convert plain text into data you can use in calculations.

And they’re easy to use – once, of course, you know how. Which you will when you’ve completed our introductory course on Excel…

2. Create stylish and professional spreadsheets

If you’ve tried using Excel you’ve obviously created a few spreadsheets already. In which case you will know exactly what they’re for, and what information you want from them.

But will anyone else? (Take another look…)

The fact is that with (very) little work a spreadsheet can be a powerful way of communicating key information to other people. That’s why you can edit the ‘look and feel’ of an Excel spreadsheet in much the same way you can edit a Word document.

You could make the fonts larger and more readable. You could add background colours or coloured type to emphasise a particular cell or range of cells. You could even highlight things like duplicate entries in a table (even if it’s just to show a colleague how annoying that is…)

There are many, many possibilities. By knowing what they are, and how to achieve them, you’ll be able to turn a bland black-and-white page of data into a well-designed and superbly effective communication tool.

Our course will show you exactly what you can do to make your spreadsheets easy for others to understand.

3. Enter data quickly with Flash Fill

If entering data is giving you repetitive stress injury, then help is at hand with Flash Fill. It’s especially handy when you want to reformat the information in an existing Excel spreadsheet – perhaps one you’ve received from a client or a colleague.

Say, for example, that you have a ‘phone number’ spreadsheet with the contact numbers for a large group of people. The numbers are correct, but you’re sending the data to someone outside the UK – and they don’t include the international dialling codes.

Just type in the corrected first number in the first available empty column. You’ll see all the remaining cells appear underneath it in grey – and all corrected in the same way. Hit ENTER to confirm, and the job is done – in seconds.

Just one example of how a little knowledge can save you a great deal of time. And there’s much, much more you can do with Flash Fill. We’d be delighted to show you how.

4. Get to grips with your data with Quick Analysis

Just imagine it…

You select a group of cells on your spreadsheet.

You click on the Quick Analysis button at the bottom right of your selection.

You pick out the visual format you want for your chart.

And there it is – your data in visual form.

There’s much more to it, of course, and we’d be delighted to show you just what you can do. You’ll be surprised. And quite possibly delighted.

5. Speed up your work with shortcuts for every task

You may well have used keyboard shortcuts in other Microsoft Office programs, though it does help to know what they are and what they do. (Help desk workers get a little tired of explaining why everything in a Word document is suddenly in pale blue italics…)

If you’re using them properly (and of course, you are) you’ll already know how they can speed up your work. So you won’t be surprised to hear Excel has keyboard shortcuts, too.

Pressing the Control (CTRL) key and the S key together, for example, will save your work (and not just in Excel). But did you know CTRL + ; will enter the current date in the cell you’re working on?

Better yet, you can create your own shortcuts to help you with specific tasks that you often need to perform.

You just need to learn how – and we’d be delighted to help.

6. Create charts quickly and easily for maximum impact

Let’s face it, whatever you do with a page full of numbers there will be people who need that information in a clear, simple and accessible form. (Which is probably why your average 100-page election manifesto finishes up as a sound bite.)

Luckily for them, and for you, Excel makes it easy to convert those number streams into charts and graphs for those who find statistics about as digestible as – well – the average election manifesto. It’s the perfect way to ensure that your message gets across. Without any misleading information or the need for any embarrassing U-turns, of course.

Book onto our Excel Intermediate course to learn more!

Like to know more? Give us a call on 0345 11 88 150 or drop us an email to arrange a free consultation. No charge, no obligation.