Using Excel As A Frontend Analysis Tool

When it comes to data consolidation and reporting there are a range of options available in today’s application market but probably none more used and appreciated than Microsoft’s Excel.

Some of the major benefits of Excel comes not just in the program itself but in the fact that it is included in Microsoft’s offering along with other well-known programs as MS Word, PowerPoint, and Access.  The large win here is that most people are aware of and have used Excel for different functions in their careers allowing them to at least be able to open and read basic excel sheets.  This has become more important in today’s commercial world as Excel evolves in its background programming to offer more intuitive ways to add, store and manipulate data.  While there are many who are unable to use the more advanced features, staff have come used to seeing and relying on data that has been worked in Excel.

Using Excel as a frontend analysis tool has a raft of benefits that extend across all company departments and reporting requirements due to the way that data can be added to, sorted, moved and basically changed in any way that you require.

For the more experienced Excel user, the ability to write and add formulas to change and alter data as required gives the ability to not just take raw data in, but to have your data run across one or more technical formulas and come out in the format that you originally planned on.  The ability to be able to import large amounts of data and have your formulas then examine each piece of data before applying one or more formulas or conditional formats before placing the data where you want it is priceless for businesses large and small allowing them to see a smaller viewpoint of each data set.

As the background programming allows more functionality with each release, the more experienced Excel users, occasionally referred to as Super Users extend their knowledge and ability to move, merge and output finished data in a range of formats that allow much more targeted decisions making by Executives and lead managers.  Knowledgeable Excel users can now take large amounts from different sources and merge, manipulate and output as concise reporting that displays the end result data clearly.  What else is data for if not to allow us to review and interrogate for a better understanding of the processes that our companies use?

In the hands of an Excel Super User, data can be taken from a wide range of areas in various formats and within a fraction of time clearly displayed in whatever format is required.  The largest growing force in Excel reporting in recent years would have to be dashboard reports where thousands of rows and columns of information can come together quickly and easily to be displayed in a myriad of formats and structures.

Structured correctly national sales companies’ executives can be sent an electronic report that displays each stores takings, the breakdowns by regions, the number and amount of each product sold, the rate of refund requests by product type and much more depending on the requirements of the report.  These numbers can further be distilled or drilled down into for an overriding of clarity.  For example, the manager in charge of 15 outlets based in Sydney can look at the total store sales input by area, by store, by product category and even down to the individual salesperson.  Clarity at that level from a reporting respective is hugely valuable, and even more so is that fact that at 8:45 am of a morning that manager can have the complete details of everything that occurred in their region from the previous days trading.

In short, Excel is a hugely fantastic data manipulating program that can do the above and much more.  But what happens to all of that data once it is no longer of interest from a time frame perspective?  The same manager no longer needs to know what happened last Thursday in their region, that day has already been examined and probed and that day’s dashboard is now filed away in ever-expanding files.

This moves us to the need to have a backend to our data process in the manner of a database.  Excel does what it does very well however it has a flat file nature and what we need is a deeper program that has a number of layers.  Hence there is now a need to attach a back-end to our Excel data and again, like Excel, Microsoft’s Access Database program is the perfect receptacle to forward this data to so that a range of other processes, reports and functions can store and continue to add this data on an ongoing basis.

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