Get More Out of Your Data

What do I mean when I say “get more out of your data”? I’m not necessarily talking about analysing exported data (although I do make spreadsheets for that), I’m talking about getting more out of the data that you tirelessly enter. What spreadsheets do you have where you enter data that is either required for calculations or just to store as records? Can you do more with that data, and how helpful could it be to understand that data?

Here is a simple, yet quite illustrative, example of what I mean. Much like most business owners, I use my own car for work purposes. Now, as most of us know, you can claim back fuel costs from the business. So, in order to calculate the amount each month and to keep records of how I calculated that amount, I made a simple spreadsheet. I kept simple records, namely the date, start location, destination, reason for travel, and the mileage. Exactly what I would need if HMRC had any questions.

It is fair enough having a spreadsheet to do that, but it is not really telling me anything other than the figure that I need to claim each month. That is what I NEED, but what do I WANT? Something I would find interesting – to see the reasons for the travel in categories. For example, how much of the travel is due to networking, and how much is due to client meetings? All I did was add a new column, where I had a drop-down list of my travel types, where I would select the type of travel for each entry. That takes me approximately 1 extra second to complete, but then makes an array of new graphs for me. Showing me exactly where my mileage was used. This makes for quite interesting reading.

This just goes to show that by adding one extra column (and having some built-in formulas to use the data), I turned a boring ‘must-have’ spreadsheet into a useful, ‘interesting-to-know’ spreadsheet.

That was just one example, I know there are many other ‘must-have’ spreadsheets out there just waiting to be upgraded. Which of your spreadsheets could do with a make-over? I’m here when you need me.


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