Most of us know Microsoft Excel as a useful tool for calculations, data analysis, and management of all kinds of tasks. Okay, who ever reads these lines will not disagree. However, being honest, most of us do not really try to evolve our Excel skills. It is like riding a bicycle: we don´t fall over and get to where we wanted, that´s good enough. We can use the formulas we (think) we need, have climbed the summit of VLOOKUP, very useful. The rest can be done by the team, they know how to do the more sophisticated stuff.
Well, if you think like that, then here are four points that might make you think again:
The use of Excel for solving a large range of management tasks is unbeatable. No news about that. What ever the problem—be it analysis of a set of data, management of a project or a process, or other—Excel continues to be the famous Swiss Army Knife to generations of managers and analysts alike. So, the first point on our list is a maybe bit obvious: Excel helps us to handle our concrete tasks, and solve our concrete problems. The better we know Excel, the more options we have to work efficiently and effectively.
Due to the massive penetration of the Microsoft Office suite, everyone in business can open an Excel file and interpret it. Okay, maybe there are exceptions, but this here is not a PhD thesis. Everyone knows how to insert data into a spreadsheet, and how to save it. The vast majority of people even knows how to use formulas and apply changes to a sheet—when allowed to do so. You don´t even need to understand Mandarin in order to work on a file that you received from an overseas business partner. Excel opens the file independently from its origin´s language, and can help with the translation. In most cases we will understand what the other person wants from us—e.g. the latest sales data.
In recent years, Microsoft launched exciting and very powerful tools—like PowerPivot, Power View, SharePoint—that enable us to analyze great amounts of data, integrate them, produce reports, and a lot of other things. Excel is no longer just a spreadsheet to do calculations and use formulas. It is part of a more comprehensive suite of powerful management tools to increase efficiency, improve data reliability, enable teams to analyze data and share information, and much more.
Most managers are aware that they don´t need to know how to write code in VBA—but knowing that this option exists, they know how to use it to their advantage. For example, by making sure that there are people in their teams that have this skill. When deciding about acquiring a new system, for example, it is good to at least first know what can be done with the existing tools, Excel included.
So, it´s never too late to learn some more Excel skills, to practice what we already know—or, refresh what we once new. Take a look at the new tools described above. If you are not already familiar with them, you will likely be surprised how far Excel has evolved in the last few years.
Learning about it is easy, and it can be done from the comfort of our office or home. There are very helpful and free tutorial videos about most aspects of Excel and its use cases, on proprietary websites as well as on LinkedIn. Furthermore, there are many websites that offer free content, like templates for specific applications.