To understand how Excel and can play a key role in business, let’s take a brief look at what a spreadsheet is and how they work.

What is a Spreadsheet?

A spreadsheet consists of a table of cells arranged into rows and columns the columns, are normally represented by letters, “A”, “B”, “C”, etc., while rows are normally represented by numbers, 1, 2, 3, etc. A single cell can be referred to by addressing its row and column, “C10” for instance. Additionally, spreadsheets have the concept of a range, a group of cells, normally contiguous. For instance, one can refer to the first ten cells in the first column with the range “A1:A10”. This system of cell references was introduced in VisiCalc, and known as “A1 notation”.

In modern spreadsheet applications, several spreadsheets, often known as worksheets or simply sheets, are gathered together to form a workbook. A workbook is physically represented by a file, containing all the data for the book, the sheets and the cells with the sheets.

Users interact with sheets primarily through the cells. A given cell can hold data by simply entering it in, or a formula, which is normally created by preceding the text with an equals sign. Data might include the string of text “Hello”, the number 5 or the date 1-Jan-15. A formula would begin with the equals sign, =4*2, but this would normally be invisible because the display shows the result of the calculation, 8 in this case, not the formula itself. This may lead to confusion in some cases.

Which Spreadsheet?

Spreadsheets have been around since the early 1980’s. The earlier versions were produced by IBM (Lotus 123) and Apple Macintosh (VisiCalc). Some are now obsolete.  The Excel spreadsheet we use now has evolved from Version 1 released for the Macintosh back in 1985. This link gives you an insight into Excel Version History.

There are many different types of spreadsheets available in the market place, both free and paid for versions. The free online spreadsheets tend to have limited functionality but are still good for domestic or student use.

Some of the more common spreadsheets we hear about are:

  • Google Docs – This is an online and collaborative tool offered by Google
  • iWork Numbers – part of the Apple Office Suite
  • Calc – free online version offered by OpenOffice
  • Quattro Pro –  part of the Word Perfect Suite
  • Lotus Symphony – an IBM product
  • Excel – part of the Microsoft Office Suite

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Which one you use is simply a matter of personal preference or it may be dependent on which hardware platform you use and software compatibility.

Excel remains the preferred choice for 80-90% of the world’s business population according to many surveyed data I have come across.

Excel is included by default within the Microsoft Office (MS) Suite of applications. The latest MS Office version is 2013 but we also now have Microsoft Office 365 which is a purely cloud based version that you subscribe to rather than purchase and download and install on your computer.  The cloud version enables you to use Excel from any computer anywhere.

Why use Excel?

I’ve listed below 10 good reasons why you should:

  1. In Retail, track what you buy and sell and use the data to predict upward and downward trends to forecast and plan future purchasing, marketing and sales strategies. Sales people will also benefit from calculating profits by item and commission earned
  2. In Engineering, calculate measurements to determine mass, weight, dimensions for product and building designs
  3. In Sales and Marketing, to manage relationships with clients, suppliers, lead generations and sales pipelines
  4. In Education, track student grades to calculate high/low scores in determining overall performance and areas of development
  5. Basic Book-keeping or complex Accounting to log receipts, mileage, track income and expenditure, forecast future budgeting and spend
  6. Manage inventories of equipment, stock control, fixed assets, catalogue collections
  7. Create Forms for routine data entry
  8. Create bespoke Templates for repeated use such as invoicing
  9. Manage Scheduling to check who’s in and who’s out, sick or on leave. Timesheets are useful in tracking resource costs in terms of time and materials.  Excel can also be used for scheduling room booking, filtering vacancies, logging calls etc.
  10. Automate Tasks using macros and formulas to perform repeated tasks,  horizontal and vertical look-up  tables to manage lists

What’s next?

Excel remains a powerful tool which takes a little time and patience to master, but once you become accustomed and familiar with its features and benefits, the rewards are endless and time rich; as many routine and manual processes we take for granted can be automated, saving time spent dealing with enquiries and error management.

However even now in many organisations and businesses, Excel remains largely unexploited, potentially due to lack of knowledge and expertise. A little training in this instance can go a long way.

Kitt Consultancy’s bespoke training programs delivers hands-on solutions to the task in hand, which means that the practical and interactive sessions will prepare delegates to take what they’ve learnt right back to their desks and apply the solutions to their duties they perform, hopefully making their work life more easier and productive in the long run. Everyone benefits, the employees from acquiring qualifications which will motivate them to do more and the business for minimising downtime and improving overall productivity in the workplace.

To find out more about the features and benefit of Excel and how you can apply them to streamline your business functions, contact me, Kam Patel on 0800 999 5488 or enq@kittconsultancy.co.uk for a free no-obligation evaluation of your business processes.

About Kam

I have been using Excel since the mid 1990’s, most of which was initially self-taught. Having spent many long periods answering enquiries and trouble-shooting problems, have devised and delivered training programs in Microsoft Office Applications to company employees throughout UK & Europe. I attained my Microsoft Office Master Certification in 2008, eventually launching my own business Kitt Consultancy in 2012 to share the skills acquired with SME’s in the UK.

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