Excel is one of those tools that you just can’t live without. It is used to store information, run calculations, carry out analysis, prepare report, visualizations and much more. What’s just as important is the flexibility it gives to its +750 millions of users.
This flexibility allows users create their own calculations and analysis, in a way that suites them, with the knowledge that they have. But let’s face it. It doesn’t always take an Excel expert to produce stunning reports and tables of data. Excel has been for years, a self-services business intelligence tool allowing users of all skill levels feel like they can achieve something.
When it comes to Business intelligence in the world of data, most seem to think ‘Excel cannot do that’. But what has happened to Excel over the last number of years seems to have escaped even the average Excel user. No longer are you limited by the number of rows of data. No longer are you limited to cell by cell calculations. Excel has been pimped. It’s been boosted with power that so many are overlooking.
Here comes Excel Power Tools
In 2010 Microsoft introduced Power Pivot as the first power tool. Equipped with its own language know as DAX (Data Analysis Expressions), Power Pivot can slice and dice data like never before. Complex calculations can be carried out across different tables of data with ease. No longer are you limited to row count, as data is stored in a data model and not the spreadsheet. If you know how to use pivot tables, they you are half way there. This Excel tool is awesome, and anyone can learn to use it.
In 2013 Microsoft introduced Power Query and Power View. Power Query, known as Get and Transform Data in Excel 2016 will allow you get data from any source. Internal data, external data, structured data and unstructured data. You can then transform that data into a usable format and run it through Power Pivot. There you can carry out any complex calculations, comparisons or modelling that you need.
But what is Business Intelligence without visualizations? Why spend hours poring over tables of data that you have prepared, when you can use visualizations to tell its story. Power View, the second power tool addition in 2013 will allow you do just that. It will allow you create interactive dashboards to visualize the data that you have.
At the Heart of Self Service Business Intelligence
Excel has always been at the heart of Self Service Business Intelligence. But with the buzz of big data and the constant talk of analytics, many people have been sucked into believing that ‘Excel cannot do that’. There has been a misconception that with this new data trend, new software’s are required. Software that is more powerful. Software that requires specialist training or even a dedicated person. Software that will cost a lot. But this is not the case.
Excel and its pimped up power tools offer what many of these other software packages offer. But Excel does not need a dedicated person and it’s not expensive either. Chances are you already have it. The power is not only in the tools but also the flexibility. It still remains a self-service business intelligence tool allowing users of all skill levels explore data. The difference is, data can now be explored like never before, and all within Excel.
This article was originally published in the Feb 17 edition of Inside Accountancy published by Accounting Technicians Ireland