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Ben Clark Pre-Sales Engineer @iDashboards

As a member of the Pre-Sales Engineer team at iDashboards, Ben Clark assists clients, partners and prospects with finding solutions that will make their life easier while working with data. Outside of work, you can find Ben staying active with sports, traveling and spending as much time outside as possible.

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With so many different ways to utilize Excel, we continue to find new and unique methods for optimizing our reporting.  Similar to the previous five Excel pointers, these next tips will continue to help you solve your data challenges throughout your small business and take your spreadsheets to the next level.

As I began drafting this post, a colleague of mine, Sean Warren, was working on a very similar video which offers shortcuts that can simplify tasks within Excel like easily toggling through different worksheets. Feel free to watch the video below and read on for additional tips to improve your Excel reports.

Here are five additional ways to optimize Your Excel usage:

  1. Delete Columns and Rows that aren’t Being Used
    If you have calculations that are used more than once, you can create helper columns, which will eliminate double calculations. You should also delete unused cells and rows, especially if they extend well beyond your data. Keep your tables trim and organized. By removing the columns and rows that extend past your data set, you will be reducing the file size and helping increase the speed of the program.
  2. Organize Your Data Properly
    There is a big difference between human readable data and raw byte data. Namely, one allows humans to be able to read Excel data reports, while the other allows machines to read the data and make calculations based on it. You may find it helpful to make two separate worksheets for your data: one for human readable data, and the other for raw data.
    There is a big difference between human readable data and raw byte data. Click To Tweet
  3. Avoid the Use of Volatile Functions
    Volatile functions can drastically slow Excel down when they aren’t used properly. The tricky thing about these functions is that the formulas automatically recalculate whenever you enter any data anywhere in any open workbook. This happens even if the change in data didn’t have anything to do with the volatile functions you had set. When this happens, Excel is then triggered to recalculate every dependent cell from the volatile formula. This can turn into a nightmare fast, so be careful when using volatile formulas, and try to avoid them all together if possible.Excel Reports
  4. Use Power Pivot or Pivot Tables
    Pivot Table is a function that has been a part of Excel for decades. It is especially helpful for beginners who do not use SQL to analyze data from two different sources at once. This function is great for smaller databases, but it is unable to analyze more than Excel’s limit of 1,048,576 rows. This becomes an issue for larger databases. Power Pivot can be incredibly helpful in allowing you to import, merge and prepare data from multiple data sources. With this powerful add-in, you have the ability to import tables from virtually any data source, including Azure, SQL, Access, Oracle and more, so that you can relate all of the separate data to one another and analyze it in any way you wish.
  5. Understand How to Clean Up Your Data
    If you want Excel to run smoothly and efficiently, you must make sure that you clean up the data inside it. In some cases, this must be done before you can even analyze the data. There are a lot of handy features in Excel to help you keep your data clean. You can even write some code or record a macro to set an automated process that will clean the data automatically, or you can clean each area individually. These are the areas you will want to focus on keeping clean:
  • Removing nonprinting characters from text, such as spaces and some symbols
  • Spell checking and changing the text’s cases
  • Fixing numbers and number signs or finding and replacing text
  • Fixing dates and times
  • Removing duplicate rows, merging and splitting columns, and rearranging columns and rows
  • Joining or matching data to reconcile data in a table

Bonus Tip: Always remember to create a backup of your original data in a new Excel workbook before using a clean function.

Excel can make for a powerful data source when you know how to use it properly. Plan your design, know what slows it down, get familiar with your functions, and start building. Once you get the hang of using Excel to its maximum potential, you can work wonders for your small business until you need a database.

Interested in taking your Excel reporting to the next level?  You can turn your spreadsheets into visual dashboards for better data analysis. Start creating Excel dashboards for free (without any coding) here!

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