Many observers have noted that most people who use Excel probably know about 10% of what it can do. Those who learn how to use more extract far more value from Excel and become far more valuable to their employers. Here are some directions for learning and earning more with the world’s most powerful spreadsheet.
It’s obvious that the primary use of a swiss-army knife is to be a knife. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of swiss-army knife owners use their knife blade more often than any other. In fact, they probably don’t use the many other tools very often at all.
The same can be said, on a much grander scale, of a toolset like Microsoft Excel. You’ve probably run into spreadsheets on which the user entered a list of amounts with a total at the bottom which you notice wasn’t entered as a SUM formula, but rather as a hard-entered number. When you ask the user they admit that they used their calculator or adding machine to total the numbers on the list not knowing Excel could do that for them. That’s probably as minimal use of Excel as you’ll find, as a typed version of a blank paper ledger sheet.
The important point here is that employers actively seek those who can use the higher-order functions of Excel to accomplish more sophisticated tasks. The more you know about Excel, the more you stand to earn!
Getting to 10%
It’s popularly estimated that the majority of Excel users take advantage of no more than 10% of what Excel can actually do. Given how much is packed into the application, this is probably a generous estimate!
Elementary users use operators to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Taking a step up, some use math functions like SUM and AVERAGE frequently. Many don’t go much further than this.
To get to that estimated 10% probably requires employing VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP along with INDEX, MATCH, VALUE, and the all-important IF functions. Add to that DATE and TIME functions for date/time-based calculations, as well as the many DATA text string concatenation and interrogation capabilities.
Are We There Yet?
Hardly. Say the words “pivot table” to most Excel users and watch them glaze over in fear. This powerful Excel capability enables the creation of high-value summaries based on data in specified columns and rows modified by filters and values. These summaries provide a variety of perspectives on the implications of the data.
Financial Analysts benefit tremendously from having specialists who can capably employ FORECAST and TREND functions, calculating correlations, creating histograms, performing regression analysis, exponential smoothing, and much more. Catch your breath.
Excel as Application Platform
While we haven’t yet scratched the surface, you get the idea that there are hundreds of things Excel can do that you probably aren’t even aware of yet. So let’s jump to the magic word.
From the beginning, most functions and features within Excel can be recorded or written into “macros,” programming statements that automate repetitive or sequential operations. Macros have been used extensively to create programmed environments in which less sophisticated users can follow instructions to enter data and perform other operations under the complete control of the Excel macro.
It is safe to say that anyone who can program effective macros has the opportunity to earn far more from their employer than those who can SUM and AVERAGE rows and columns. Far, far more.
New Excel Horizons
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