A Guide to Utilizing Excel for Business to Maximize Productivity


When it comes to Excel, a lot of people fall in either one of two categories. There are those who love Microsoft Excel and cannot live without it. But there are also those who hate it and are completely intimidated by it.

In this era of data, learning how to use Excel to maximize productivity is very important. That’s despite the fact that there are other applications available on the market for data storage and manipulation. MS Excel continues to be one of the best available tools for business due to how much it can do.

A survey by Acuity Training conducted in early 2022 reveals that 66 percent of office workers use Excel at least once per hour. It’s no wonder Microsoft has continued to heavily invest in Excel making it a more powerful tool.

Excel for Business is an incredibly powerful software tool that allows businesses of all sizes to optimize processes, streamline data analysis and gain insights from data more efficiently. 

With this guide, we’ll provide a deeper look into what Excel has to offer, from simple but useful functions to advanced features that can be used to maximize productivity. Let’s get started on our journey to achieving business success with Excel for Business!

Utilizing Excel for Business to Maximize Productivity

Have you been wondering whether Excel is still relevant in this era of business intelligence? Well, it seems so because despite a business intelligence market that’s worth billions, 84 percent of users still prefer Excel and similar spreadsheet tools for data analysis.

With features such as PivotTables, VLOOKUPs and conditional formatting, Excel makes it faster and easier than ever before to analyze data and create efficient workflows. 

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from taking advantage of Excel’s powerful tools to streamline their operations, from creating invoices and tracking expenses to creating automated reports and dashboards. Excel is an incredibly powerful tool that can help any business reach its maximum potential.

1. The use of Date and Time in Pivot Tables

Pivot tables are a great way to analyze data visually and figure out trends, correlations, and summaries of large amounts of data. One useful feature of pivot tables is the ability to use date and time information for filtering and sorting. Using date and time properties in a pivot table can simplify the tedious, manual process of sorting by hand and quickly show you the related data you need. 

For example, you could filter an entire column by month to quickly analyze the performance of a particular product over the course of a year, or sort data by hours of the day to gain a better understanding of employee shifts and traffic patterns.

To do this in your pivot table, select one of the cells containing a date in the day format. Then right click and choose Group. The next step is to choose how you’d like to group your data for meaningful analysis and insights.

 Date and time properties in pivot tables are powerful tools that can help you unlock insights and make accurater, informed decisions.

2. Highlight Cells With Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting can help you quickly identify cells that meet specific criteria. In Microsoft Excel, you can use this feature to shade cells based on their value, text, or formatting. 

For example, if you enter numerical scores in a column, you can make higher scores stand out with a different color. This can help make your data easier to visualize and spot trends more quickly. You can also choose to display text or turn the entire cell background a different color, which can help you quickly identify key information.

With conditional formatting, a set of conditions or a condition can be set to change the cell’s appearance once met.

Although Excel has a lot of built-in conditions, users are also at liberty to create their own. Below are some of the most popular ones:

  • Color scales. These are visual guides that help users to understand data distribution and variation.

  • Icon sets. They are used to annotate and classify data into categories that are separated by a threshold value. In a three arrows icon set, for instance, the green up arrow represents higher values. The yellow sideways arrow represents middle values and the red down arrow represents lower values.

  • Data bars. They help to spot higher and lower numbers. That’s especially with large amounts of data.

3.  Become Familiar With Useful Functions

Some of the useful functions include:

  • The FORMULATEXT and N function. The use of this function will make it easy for those using the spreadsheet after you to be more productive. Remember that nothing is worse than inheriting a complex spreadsheet when you have no idea how it was set up.

The use of the FORMULATEXT and the N function makes it easy to document your worksheet. The challenge is that it’s not something that everyone knows how to do or why.

In a cell next to your formula, you can use the function =FORMULA (cell number). Eg, =FORMULATEXT (cq). Apart from displaying your formula, this will also make it easy to know how that value was calculated at a glance.

If you’ve got a formula on your worksheet that you don’t want to be seen, terminate it by adding the N function for an undetected description. The output of the formula stays unchanged – however now you’ve given yourself an informative note for future reference!

  • The VLOOKUP Excel function. This function is used when there’s a need to quickly find specific data within a large table. Such data may include names, phone numbers, and specific values. You can, for instance, look for the first name and the last name of a client, which you can do based on the account number that you have.

Keep in mind that VLOOKUP is designed to retrieve data in a table organized into vertical rows. This is where each row represents a new record. But if you have your data organized horizontally, you can use the HLOOKUP function.

  • The CONCATENATE function. This function allows users to combine text from various cells into one cell. You can, for instance, combine the first and last names from separate columns into one column. The formula to combining the text in cells A2 and B2 can be:


4. Maximizing the Power of Autofill and Flash Fill

Working in Excel usually involves iterative data entry. There’s also the repeat of the same patterns of organization. The good news is that users can teach Excel to learn from their data entry patterns, hence, reducing manual effort.

Knowing how to take advantage of Autofill and Flash Fill, two of Excel’s most powerful yet underused data entry tools, is an essential skill for Microsoft Excel users. 

Autofill, Excel’s more basic tool, can quickly fill in a column or row of values with a single drag or click, as well as create simple patterned series of data like dates. 

Flash Fill, on the other hand, can fill in new cells through the use of matching patterns from neighboring cells. 

For example, in one column you may enter customer names, and in the next column Flash Fill will automatically fill in customer email addresses for you based on the pattern it recognizes. This can save you loads of time when entering data into Excel worksheets.

5. Creating Sheet Views to Work With no Interruptions

Working with Excel can be a challenge, and one of the most important skills you can have is learning how to create Sheet Views so that you can work with minimal interruptions. 

Sheet Views allow you to section off your spreadsheet into distinct areas, allowing you to focus on specific tasks without having to worry about the rest of the worksheet. 

You can then add buttons or hyperlinks to allow you to quickly move between views without any clumsy cutting and pasting. 

Remember that customizable spreadsheet views allow this exact capability. You can select the relevant worksheet, click view, and then choose New from the shift view option.

Analysts can apply whichever filter option and continue working on the filtered view. Sheet views can also be assignable with a name to ensure easy reference.

Final Take Away

This guide can help you increase the operational efficiency and boost productivity in your organization. Data handling is a very important task. As such, it must be done by a professional in this field.

With the knowledge and understanding of how to use Excel for Business, organizations can see a noticeable difference in their productivity. 

Those who make use of this powerful tool will be better equipped to develop complex and accurate spreadsheets that are effective, visually appealing, and insightful. 

By mastering the basics of Microsoft’s Excel, businesses will be able to maximize their potential and streamline their operations with ease – a valuable asset in any modern business.