3 ways to improve your organisation’s Excel practices

Originally released in 1985, Excel is one of the oldest tools in your organisation’s software portfolio — but you still swear by your spreadsheets. Microsoft’s famed office package has stood the test of time and is now distributed across the cloud and a range of operating systems to assist with business data management, calculations and data visualisation.

In fact, Excel is so ubiquitous that 66% of office workers use it at least once per hour. But in spite of this, only 6% think they’re Excel experts. So, could your organisation be implementing Excel better? Most likely. 

Here, we’ll outline three overlooked ways to improve Excel practices in the office.

Converting spreadsheets into web apps

Excel has an undeniably broad range of use cases, but if streamlined collaboration is your goal, it might be time to upgrade your spreadsheets to browser-based web apps. Businesses big and small are increasingly moving towards web-based solutions which offer advantages over traditional Excel files.

Specialists from the Excel-to-web platform EASA explain that “converting your Excel sheets to web applications ensures that you avoid the issues associated with collaborative spreadsheet use. These include formulas being overwritten, out-of-date files remaining in circulation, or intellectual property being left exposed.”

For example, when you convert spreadsheets into web applications, they can be:

  • Accessed remotely using only a browser, removing the need for Excel to be installed locally
  • Collaborated on simultaneously without creating version confusion
  • Directly integrated to a central database, consolidating data and providing enhanced functionality

By making this transition, you can bring your Excel-based processes into the modern era, improving the efficiency of your spreadsheets wherever they’re being used.

Tab for formulas

One of the most basic and yet often highly overlooked methods to boost your Excel practices is to organise your spreadsheets effectively. Even if you know where everything is, cluttered spreadsheets can undermine your productivity, especially when data is being constantly updated or you need to collaborate with other members of your team on a spreadsheet they aren’t familiar with.

In times like these, scattered formulas and calculations can slow down your workflow. The solution? Creating a formula tab. By isolating all your handy formulas in one part of the workbook, you make them easier to locate and modify as required. Plus, you reduce the likelihood that any user will accidentally edit a critical formula and undermine the integrity of the whole spreadsheet.

And it’s essential to avoid human errors in Excel. Just ask JP Morgan, the financial services firm which famously suffered a copy-and-paste calculation mistake that cost the business a staggering $6 billion.

Named ranges

One handy Excel tool baked right into the system is the named ranges feature. This can enhance your spreadsheet’s ease of navigation by assigning meaningful names to specific ranges of data, cells or formulas. Ultimately, this makes your spreadsheet more readable and less prone to some of those costly errors we mentioned earlier.

Named ranges allow you to replace complex functions or cell references with more readable names. For instance, GCFGlobal explains that if your formula in the cell is “$A$2:$T$1000”, and the specified cell range refers to your earnings, this could be simply renamed “Earnings”, ensuring that everybody working on the spreadsheet keeps track of which data the function is referring to. This is especially useful when sharing or collaborating on a spreadsheet.

Using named ranges also makes spreadsheets easier to update and maintain, as they can automatically adjust to include any new data, reducing the need to modify formulas manually. All in all, this reduces the risk of human errors in Excel caused by mistyped or outdated references.

To create a named range, simply select the group of cells you want to assign a title to, then go to Formulas > Create from Selection.

While an overhaul to your Excel practices requires some time and effort, especially if you’re training many employees, the investment quickly pays off for organisations looking to streamline their processes and get ahead of the curve.

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