What are the uses of Microsoft Excel in the workplace? The list of ways that businesses use the spreadsheet program is long. But we’ve broken it down to a top 10 list after analyzing data on 800 job ads (using Excel by the way).
The most common business uses of MS Excel are business analysis, managing lists of people, operations management, and performance reporting. The software is also handy for office administration, project management, and managing programs, contracts and accounts.
At a basic level, Excel is using for storing information, analysing and sorting, and reporting. The platform is popular in business because an Excel spreadsheet is highly visual and fairly ease to use.
1. Business Analysis
The number 1 use of Microsoft Excel in the workplace is to improve business performance through analysis. This is essentially using collected data to inform decision making.
Businesses naturally gather data in their day-to-day activities, which may be data on product sales, website traffic, spending on supplies, insurance claims, etc. Analysis is the activity of converting data into something useful to the people who run the business.
For example, you could run a profitability report by day of the week. If the business always loses money on a Sunday, that information management could be used to make a decision to not open on Sundays.
Job examples: business analyst, business planning analyst, business solutions analyst, claims analyst, collections analyst, credit officer, data analyst, data and audience analyst, finance business analyst, investment operations portfolio analyst, junior data analyst, regional finance analyst, senior data analyst, senior finance analyst, senior portfolio analyst.
2. People Management
You may be surprised to learn that one of the top uses of Microsoft Excel in business is to manage people. An Excel spreadsheet is a powerful way to organise information about people, whether they are employees, customers, supporters, or training attendees.
Using Excel, information about an individual person can be stored and retrieved efficiently. A spreadsheet row or column can be used for an individual record that may include information like name, email address, start date, items purchased, subscription status, and last contact.
Job examples: client growth coordinator, client management and administration, client relationship manager, client service manager, client service specialist, employer service consultant, HR administrator, human resources administrative assistant, human resources administrator, human resources adviser, human resources officer, junior HR analyst, reconciliation and payments officer, relationship manager.
3. Managing Operations
Excel is relied on heavily to manage the day-to-day operations of many businesses.
While Amazon uses sophisticated custom software for operations management, Microsoft Excel is an important tool for many smaller businesses (or parts of larger businesses). An advantage of Excel is that it’s relatively low tech, allowing it to be used by many people and without the risk of programming bugs.
Business activities can often involve quite complicated logistics. Inventory flows need to be controlled so that you can keep operations running smoothly – and without overstocking on particular items. That means keeping track of supplier and client transactions, listing critical dates, and managing times and schedules.
Job examples: business operations analyst, data operations manager, graduate program – supply chain and operations, in market supply chain analyst, operational business analyst, operational enablement associate, operational knowledge management specialist, supply chain associate, supply chain specialist.
4. Performance Reporting
Performance monitoring and reporting is a specialised type of company analysis that can be done effectively using Microsoft Excel. For example, many accountants still use Excel (partly because it’s compatible with cloud-based accounting software).
A common way to convert data into a performance report in Excel is to create a pivot table. By inserting a pivot table and linking it to data, you can extra useful information from the dataset quickly. Pivot tables have numerous in-built functions that allow for tasks such as counting and summing certain types of data within the dataset.
Job examples: financial accountant, forecast analyst / sales support, performance analyst, performance analyst – procurement, professional services operations analyst, reporting analyst, reporting development analyst, sales coordinator, sales operations analyst.
5. Office Administration
Underlining the importance of Microsoft Excel, office administrators use Excel to enter and store key administrative data. The same data may be subsequently used for accounting and financial reporting, as well as operations analysis and performance reporting.
Apart from recordkeeping, Excel is useful in office administration for supporting day-to-day tasks such as invoicing, paying bills, and contacting suppliers and clients. It’s an all-purpose tool for keeping track of and managing office activities.
Job examples: administration assistant, administration officer, administration supervisor, administrative assistant, business operations and office manager, junior clerical and administrative officer, office admin manager, office support – maintenance / general duties.
6. Strategic Analysis
With respect to uses of Excel, strategic analysis is where business decisions are closely connected to the data and formulas on spreadsheets. You apply Excel to guide actions such as investments and asset allocations.
As an example, based on an Excel model, you may decide to take out currency insurance. Spreadsheet analysis is designed to inform business decisions in a specific way.
Job examples: asset manager – realty management division, mergers and acquisitions valuations – analyst, membership and campaigns strategist, portfolio administration associate, portfolio analyst, portfolio associate – wealth management, portfolio management officer – asset finance.
7. Project Management
Although project managers have access to purpose-built project management (PM) software, an Excel workbook is often an effective alternative.
Projects are business activities that typically have a budget and start and end dates. Project plans can be placed into a workbook, which can then be used to track progress and keep the project on schedule. In an Excel sheet, you can create a Gantt chart to map out tasks in terms of durations and key dates.
An advantage of using Excel is that you can easily share the project workbook to others, including to people who are unfamiliar with, or lack access to, custom PM software.
Job examples: project analyst, project assistant / officer (IT), project business analyst.
8. Managing Programs
Microsoft Excel is a good platform for managing programs. It can be adapted to handle the specific characteristics of a given program. And, because MS Excel is widely known, program records can easily be managed by multiple people and, when the time comes, handed over to a new manager.
A program is like a project, but may be ongoing and can depend on participation by users. Excel helps managers allocate resources, keep track of progress, and maintain participant records. Pivot tables are useful here because you can quickly create a pivot table to summarize large amounts of data in a simple cross-tabular format.
Job examples: event coordinator, learning and development officer, learning and development coordinator, manager – internships, programs and office coordinator, records and results coordinator, training administrator.
9. Contract Administration
Contract administrators like to use Microsoft Excel because it provides a no-fuss means of recording contract details, including dates, milestones, deliverables and payments.
Many different contract management templates are available, and these can be adapted to suit the particular contract type or stage of the contract lifecycle.
Job examples: building contract administrator, contracts administrator, estimator / contracts administrator, graduate contracts administrator, lease administrator, quote and tender administrator.
10. Account Management
Account managers are generally required to be competent Excel workbook users since they receive and need to maintain customer records. Excel is commonly used in account management since it provides a simple way to share and maintain client files.
The job of an account manager is to nurture relationships with existing clients of the business. Key goals are to achieve customer loyalty and repeat sales. It’s a marketing kind of role and a popular career for MBA graduates.
Job examples: account coordinator, advertising manager, design studio account manager, digital account manager, junior account manager.
Why You Need Excel Skills in Business
If this list hasn’t convinced you already, Excel spreadsheet skills are very useful in the workplace. Your skills can also be easily adapted to other spreadsheets programs such as Google Sheets.
Not all jobs use Excel and those that do are often considered ‘middle skill‘ jobs. However, Excel is widely used. Having good spreadsheet skills gives you the ability to work on all sorts of different tasks. And you can more easily get value out of information that’s being shared in workbooks.
Once you know how to use Excel, you’ll find yourself using it more and more. You can also quickly expand from doing basic tasks such as sorting lists through to writing formulas and creating nice-looking charts and pivot tables. It’s an accessible platform that can be used to do both simple and highly sophisticated business tasks.