It’s More Than Just Rows and Columns

Excel has been around since the 80’s and there aren’t many people who haven’t used it at some point. Many of us use it regularly, some of us couldn’t do our jobs without it. And yet, even among regular users, a lot of the functions go unused.

Even when you’ve mastered the core functions, there are 100’s of add-ins for excel. From statistical and engineering analysis to financial reporting tools that connect directly to Sage or Quickbooks, you can start to push your Excel wizardry to the max.

“Business Intelligence” is all the rage these days. Of course, the concept is nothing new. But what was once only available to large enterprise with big budgets has, over recent years, become much more accessible to even the smallest of SMEs. There are lots of BI applications out there but, if you use Excel, the good news is you’re already half way there!

Microsoft’s own “power” add-ins have been available since Excel 2010 and they now come built into Excel 2016 and 365. With power query you can load data from multiple sources, create data models containing millions of rows, and then perform powerful data analysis against these models. It sounds complicated but if you start off small and take it step-by-step, you can quickly build your data modelling knowledge from the comfort of a familiar app.

Excel Mapping

The short video above was created using Excel – no special knowledge was required. Just one table with some data that includes locations is all that’s needed to get going. For my example I chose to download data from http://ratings.food.gov.uk. You can download the Excel workbook that goes with the video from here. Have a play with it yourself – if you’re in the north east, look up your favourite take-away!

You can add to your excel skills little by little. So the next time you’re presenting figures to your team, don’t settle for a pie chart!