Our previous post "Data or People? What is the most important resource in a business?" discussed the importance of developing your staff data analysis capabilities.
Here we will outline the key steps in the journey to being able to use the latest technologies and techniques to produce reports and analysis. The following is focused on users who primarily work with spreadsheets and use Excel.
Step 1 - Learn to use Pivot Tables
Pivot Tables will speed up the time taken to produce reports and analyse your data tremendously. An important aspect of Pivot Tables is that you need to understand how to structure and format your data for Pivot Tables to work effectively.
Step 2 - Create a Data Model
New technologies such as Power Pivot and Power BI allow Excel users to easily create powerful data models. Data models allow you to easily centralise the storage of your data, calculations (business logic) and create relationships between the tables of data. Data models make it much quicker and easier to develop reports and speeds up your processes.
Step 3 - Learn some Analysis Techniques
Once you have an engine for the production of your reports, you need to learn how to ask questions of your data. There are many different types of analysis that can be performed on your data - comparison, trend, ranking, contribution, variance, frequency etc. are some examples. Add a bit of simple statistics and you will find a whole new world of interpreting and understanding your data.
Visual analysis is a growing field of importance. Learn which graphs to use with which type of data. Visual analysis provides critical understanding of patterns and relationships within data.
Step 4 - Time for New Data
Technology such as Power Query makes it easy to access new data and to mash them up with existing tables of data. However the data may not always arrive in a format that is easy to use for data analysis. This is where you need to know how to use different methods to transform, append and merge data that creates powerful new data sets for different insights.
Step 5 - Share your Insights
Data analysis is of no use if we are not able to share the new insight and knowledge. Learning how to create effective reports and dashboards that can easily communicate key insights and information to your audience. Being able to tell a story about what your data means is a skill that will develop over time as your experience develops.
Unfortunately often trial and error is required to find the best methods of what resonates with your audience and what does not. My advice is start simple with your presentations. Your audience will quickly tell you what they want.
Power BI has the ability to create Tables and Reports in minutes, which can then be shared via the cloud.
There is no shortage of data available today, with huge amounts of it being constantly generated by ERP systems, POS systems, PLC systems and Biometric systems, to name but a few.
Companies are needing to find ways to effectively analyse the data, to leverage the information and make informed decisions, however many of the options available are very expensive and require a lengthy period of implementation, plus human natures makes most staff resistant to learning new systems so all in all, decision makers are faced with a challenge on many levels.
Excel has become the main tool for manipulating and analyzing data, and developing reports in business today, and with the release of Excel 2013, Microsoft introduced even more powerful business intelligence tools.
To understand how the Excel Business Intelligence tools work together in Excel 2013, you need to understand the function of each tool and how it fits into the “traditional” Excel model.
Extract, Transform, Load
Power Query is an intuitive, easy to use tool for importing, transforming and working with data.
Spreadsheets are the basic feature of Excel. Launched in 1985, there are now over 700 million Excel users worldwide.
Tables were introduced in Excel 2007, they allow you to do quick sorting and analysis of your data.
Power Pivot was introduced as a free add-in for Excel 2010, it gives you the ability to access, process and handle well over a million rows of data, more than a standard spreadsheet can process.
Pivot Tables are an easy and convenient way to build intelligent, flexible summary tables, allowing you to quickly derive insight from your business data.
Pivot Charts enable you to visualize a PivotTable. You can quickly change a portion of data displayed, making PivotChart ideal for presentation of data in reports.
Power View is an interactive data exploration, visualisation and presentation tool that gives you strong insight in to your business .
So what is the bottom line?
Before spending time and money on new data analysis tools, find out exactly how learning how to use all the Excel Business Intelligence Tools effectively will allow you to quickly and easily analyse your data and gain insight into it without any major resource investments.
Over a billion people around the world use Excel today, far more users than any other BI vendor can claim.
This is the first video in a five-part series showing you how powerful the Excel "Power" tools are and how learning to use them can vastly improve your productivity, while at the same time giving you insight into your business far beyond anything you ever imagined.
Dates is one of the most common data types worked with in Excel. It’s probably also the most frustrating to work with!
Instead of a month, day, or year, Excel uses numbers to represent the date. It’s complicated further by the fact that dates are also days, like Monday or Wednesday but Excel doesn’t store that information in the cells.
In order to understand how dates work, you need to understand how Excel stores the information. It doesn’t use day, month and year but rather each date is assigned a serial number.
This serial number is created by using the total number of days from a specific date since the beginning of the year 1900. In other words, 1 January 1900 is assigned the number 1, 2 January 1900 is number 2 and so on. Of course, as time goes on, the numbers have gotten bigger and bigger.
Today’s date is 11 August 2015, the serial number assigned to it is 42227. So this means that there have been 42 227 days since 1 January 1900.
It seems confusing, but it makes it a lot easier to add, subtract, and count days. A week from today would be 18 August 2015, in order to work out the serial number you would need to add 7 to 42227 which will give you 42234.
The best part of this, though, is that you don't have to worry about working it out, Excel does all the work for you. All you need to do is make sure your dates are correctly formatted so that Excel can work with them as numbers, then you can do calculations and ask the questions you want to ask.
It is important to note that any date before 1 January 1900 is not recognized as a date in Excel. Excel does not work with “negative” date serial numbers on the number line.
To find out how to easily format your data, so that Excel recognises it as a date and not just text, watch our tutorial.
A common problem in Excel is the ability to calculate the age of a person.
In this tutorial we show you step by step how to calculate a person's age using the current date.
The business world has changed fundamentally over the past few years.The speed of change means that mangers need to be able to make decisions quicker, but at the same time need to be able to process far more data to be able to make an informed decision.
Business today has no lack of data – transactional systems record every part of the business process. The key challenge for managers is how to turn the vast quantities of data into useful insight and information.
In recent years new technologies has allowed vast quantities of data to be processed, analysed and increasingly visualised. The new technologies allow management to understand trends, identify outliers and to see new patterns in the data that could not be processed previously.
Excel as a Business Intelligence Tool
Excel has become the main tool for manipulating and analysing data, and developing reports in business today. With the release of Excel 2013, Microsoft introduced even more powerful business intelligence tools.
To understand how the Excel Business Intelligence tools work together in Excel 2013, you need to understand the function of each tool and how it fits into the “traditional” Excel model:
How is this relevant to Business Users?
If you work with Excel, using Spreadsheets and Tables to build reports, you probably find yourself regularly copying and pasting data between worksheets then clicking the same sequence of buttons to clean and shape the data.
You’ve probably found that complex formulas, dirty data and inevitable errors take up a lot of your time, making month end reports a nightmare that consumes large portions of time you don’t have.
Learning how to use all the Excel Business Intelligence Tools effectively will free you from the dull, repetitive tasks and give you time to focus on what’s important, analyzing your data and gaining insight into it.
This will enable you to make good decisions about your business.