Are You Getting the Most out of Excel?

I have been to see quite a few Excel spreadsheets that companies have created to help their businesses, and quite frankly, it scares me a little. Most people realise the flexibility and control that Excel offers but they can only use the basic functions, so they end up with very simple spreadsheets which usually do not achieve the desired results. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has to start somewhere, and I have been impressed with what most clients have managed to achieve. It just worries me that all of the spreadsheets could have been more productive, I guess that is why they called me. I have generally found the following five issues:

Out of all of the spreadsheets that clients have shown me, more could have been done with the data that they already had captured. This means that with the same amount of work, they could have had more statistics and information generated. Same input with more output, all it required was a few functions.

The spreadsheets were unlocked. This means that it was possible (and rather easy) to overwrite an equation and delete vital data. This is particularly relevant to companies that have more than one person using a spreadsheet. If someone types over an equation and someone else doesn’t realise and assumes that the figure has been calculated, that could be a disaster.

The spreadsheets required more work than was necessary. They all required input from the user that could have been achieved automatically. People realise that they need specific data in the spreadsheet, but they don’t realise that they can input less and have more achieved automatically. This is generally down to limited Excel knowledge.

Most were not set out productively. Most people start with an idea and add to it as they go along. I have done exactly the same thing so I know how easy it is to do. You start with an idea, and as you use it you realise that you could add more to it, and so it grows. This could cause issues as when you look at the system, once it has developed, it is not as organised as it could be. This could usually be more productive if someone creates a new one from scratch, combining all of the required features in one package.

I have often found errors. Not blatant errors, but simple equation mistakes and other more sinister issues. The more sinister issues are things like equations that give the right answer when tested, but when the parameters change, the answer is incorrect. For example if you have two 2’s and you need a 4, so you say =2+2, but it should have been =2*2. It gives the right answer, but it is not correct, so if you change the 2s to 4s, it will be incorrect. The other time that errors happen is when people copy and past without using the $$ function where necessary.

If you are like most companies and you realise the advantages of using Excel, and you have spreadsheets, ask yourself whether your spreadsheets are up to date, correct and productive. Excel is a brilliant tool, it can be used to great effect, and can help just about any business achieve greater productivity. I would encourage everyone to see what it can do for them, just be careful that it is created properly.

I love to create professional spreadsheets, so if anyone would like my advice or would like me to upgrade their spreadsheets, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am also available if you don’t really use Excel but would like to see how it can benefit you. Excel is an excellent tool to use to create cost-effective, productive, business software for just about any business. To get inspired with some free spreadsheets or some brochures to show what can be done, please visit our website.

Richard Sumner

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