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by Garrett Spence
4/11/2016 8:43:15 AM

How to Analyze Business Data Using Microsoft Excel

Big data is unavoidable nowadays, and sorting through it can give you a big headache. If you want your data to work for you and your business you’ll need to learn how to analyze it... otherwise it’s of little value.

Use these simple, but important, Excel formulas, features, and tricks to make sense out of your data. You won’t have to spend hours learning how to use complicated features, either.

See basic information without using formulas

This ridiculously easy trick is bound to save you time because using it means you don’t have to type in or insert certain formulas to analyze data. Simply highlight a group of numbers or figures and then look at the lower right-hand corner of your screen. You’ll see the average of the cells’ values, how many pieces of data were counted, and the total sum of all the values.

“Heat mapping” your data with conditional formatting

You can use Excel’s conditional formatting feature to make it easier to identify patterns in large sets of data. Numbers will be color-coded differently based on how high and low they are. It’s really easy to do, too. In your menu navigate to Home, select Conditional Formatting, and then choose a color scheme.

Calculate percent change over a period of time

Calculating percent change over time is useful for many businesses. You can see how sales increased or decreased seasonally, for example.

It’s easier to learn how to use this formula by looking at actual data, so navigate over to Excel’s tutorial on calculating percentages to see a real-life example. If you want to visualize those changes, use conditional formatting: Home > Conditional Formatting > Icon Sets.

Easily create useful Excel charts

Excel makes creating visually appealing charts and graphs a snap — all you need to do is select data range you want to chart, then hit F11. You’ll get a chart in the default style (on a new worksheet) and from there you can customize it to meet your exact needs and preferences.

Bonus tip: If you want your chart to be on the same worksheet as your data, press ALT + F1 instead of F11.

Rank your top and/or bottom values

This simple trick can save you a lot of time, especially because it doesn’t involve learning or typing out new formulas. Navigate to the Data tab and select Filter. You’ll see an arrow on the right hand side at the top of each of your columns, and now you can easily filter based on a variety of variables. To filter by number click on the arrow, select Number Filters, and then choose Top 10 or any other useful metric.

Ranking your data in this way can be helpful for identifying which products and services are your top sellers, but you can also see which offerings are lagging behind. This simple feature can even help plan your sales strategies, marketing promotions, inventory, and more.

These tips and tricks are just the beginning — Excel is an exceptionally powerful tool. Check out this list from Business Insider to learn even more about how to use Excel to make sense of your business data.

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