ms.excel-big dataWe live in a world of big data and sophisticated information technology – these have become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. It’s nearly impossible to run a business or get work done without access to big data. Even an ordinary search online requires access to big data stored on several servers in different locations.

Every business has its own pocket of big data that includes customer information, details about all transactions, products and services, information about employees, all the data related to customer traffic and sales, customer service and concerns, etc.

As you can see, a company’s server will have a lot of information; and it’s important to keep all of it organised if you want to use it well. If the data isn’t organised, you’re more likely to make mistakes and that can cause problems in your business down the line. A clean and efficient software program like Microsoft Excel can help you keep your data organised. You’ll find a great resource on the best ways of using Excel here – and here are some ways you can maximise your data analytics:

1. Power Pivot can be used as an add-on 

Feeding massive amounts of data into Excel and then managing it can be tedious and time-consuming. Add-ons like Power Pivot are the perfect way to consolidate the data and analyse it quickly. You can access the information through a dashboard and make quick decisions without having to go through vast amounts of data. Power Pivot will pick out patterns, see how different strings of data correlate to one another, and provide accurate results.

It helps minimise mistakes and the potential for human error in consolidating data. It also saves a lot of time and effort. This will keep your IT team happy as adding the data, consolidating the information, and analysing it can be the most tiresome aspect of their job. However, this add-on is only as efficient as the person using it, so it’s important to understand how it works before you start processing any data through it. 

2. Aggregate functions minimise chance of human error  

Excel has a number of inbuilt Functions and Formulas that can carry out complex calculations and processes quickly and without error. There are 19 inbuilt AGGREGATE functions in Excel that can process data in a number of ways. If you understand the process of every function thoroughly, it will help lessen your workload and minimise room for errors. Here is a list of functions you can use in the process:

  • SUM
  • MIN
  • MAX
  • S
  • P
  • S
  • P
  • SNGL
  • INC
  • EXC
  • INC
  • EXC

All of these AGGREGRATE functions are designed to process large amounts of data, compress the information and make it more manageable. It’s a good idea to understand these functions well and incorporate them into your work habits. 

3. Double check your work with the help of outliers 

Mistakes can happen, especially if you have to input and process massive datasets. Fortunately, Excel is well-designed and has an integrated mechanism that helps it identify outliers in your data set. This means the application can spot something that doesn’t belong and will point it out to you. Excel will quickly identify if numbers and data stray from the mean of the column or row.

Instead of having to scan the entire dataset and look for errors manually, you can gain immediate access to information that doesn’t belong, cross-check it, and make the necessary corrections. This is especially important when you want to process financial data because even a single mistake in the numbers can lead to a massive discrepancy.  

4. Create your own formulas to manage data 

Excel is a flexible platform and one of its biggest advantages is the ability to create custom formulas. You can use the functions provided by the platform to create formulas that specifically apply to the kind of data you need to process. Different processes require different techniques; so a custom formula is an excellent solution for all types of businesses.

For example, if you’re a marketer you can sort through a large number of backlinks to identify ones that are dead or contain malicious content. You can also create a formula that looks for spam words commonly found in the domain names and can then ensure the formula will mark that particular piece of data as SPAM so it’s easy to sort and address. as long as you understand how they work. There are a number of formulas you can create, 

5. Compliance through cloud 

When multiple people use the same document and manipulate the data within in, that significantly increases the potential for errors, misinformation, and other problems. One member of your team may unknowingly delete or alter information entered by another member, which has the potential to be disastrous. If you don’t keep track of all the changes and ensure there are little to no errors, you will face loss in profits or even legal trouble depending on the type of data present in the document.

Fortunately, Excel can now be stored in cloud as a part of the Office 365 system. All alterations to the data are tracked and recorded so you can correct, mark, and carefully monitor the changes that have been made. This helps minimise the chance of errors and makes the data analytics process easier to manage. Your team members can also share information and communicate on the document without having to resort to emails.

Excel offers a number of benefits; you just need to make sure you understand the platform well and know how to use its features. Most professionals don’t use Excel to its fullest potential and that can prove to be a disadvantage down the line. Take time to learn how to use the platform and understand how it works with your own dataset to get the best use of the application.

Jordan James is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Activia Training, a UK-based training provider specialising in improving delegates’ workplace performance in business skills, management development and IT applications. Jordan is passionate about social media and customer service issues, and regularly blogs about these – and many other – topics on the Activia blog.