What is Microsoft Excel best suited for?

With over 1.2 billion Microsoft Office users worldwide, Excel has become the professional standard in offices throughout the world for pretty much everything that involves data management.

Key Takeaways

With over 1.2 billion Microsoft Office users worldwide, Excel has become the professional standard in offices throughout the world for pretty much everything that involves data management.

But, if you believe Excel is only good for looking at a bunch of figures and generating financial reports, think again. There are several applications of Excel in business that go beyond mere spreadsheets. In fact, the possibilities appear limitless.

It would be very difficult for us to construct a list that includes all of Excel's possible applications, however, in order to demonstrate the power and flexibility of everyone's favorite spreadsheet application, we've compiled a list of the most popular ways you could utilize Excel professionally, individually, and just for fun.

Excel is a software program and is part of the Microsoft Office and Office 365 tools suites. It uses spreadsheets to organize and analyze numbers and data using formulae and functions. Excel is primarily used by businesses of all kinds to undertake data analysis all across the world.

The software is especially popular with companies that generate large amounts of data. It is typically used, among many other things, in business analysis, human resource management, operations management, and performance reporting. 

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Excel organizes and manipulates data and solves mathematical problems by using a vast collection of structured cells. Users can use graphing tools, pivot tables, and formulas to visualize and arrange data in the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet application also comes with a macro programming language called Visual Basic for Applications.

Because it has now become universally accepted as a standard office tool, Excel skills are more vital than ever. Those who understand how to use Excel are often in a position to find better-paying jobs.

In this article, we will go through some of the most popular applications of this software.

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What is Microsoft Excel used for?

Since Excel is so easy to learn and adapt to it has become hugely popular in many areas of business. Because of this, it is used widely in many different ways. Here are the most popular applications for MS Excel:

1. Business Analysis

The most common application of Microsoft Excel in the office is to analyze and improve business performance. Essentially, this is the use of data generated by the business to inform decision-making.

Businesses naturally collect data in their daily operations, which could include data on product sales, website traffic, supply spending, insurance claims, and so on. The activity of transforming data into something valuable to the individuals who manage the firm is known as analysis.

You could, for example, run a profitability report for all the products a company is selling. If the company consistently loses money on specific products, the data could be utilized to make the decision to delist these products and reduce losses.

If you are into data analysis you will want to go through our Excel data analyst ultimate guide.

Jobs in Business Analysis:

  • Business Analyst, 
  • Business Solutions Analyst, 
  • Business Planning Analyst, 
  • Claims Analyst, 
  • Collections Analyst, 
  • Credit Officer, 
  • Data Analyst, 
  • Finance Business Analyst,
  • Investment Operations Portfolio Analyst.

2. Human Resource and People Management

Another popular use of Microsoft Excel in business is for human resource management

An Excel spreadsheet is an effective tool for organizing information on people, whether they are employees, clients, supporters, or training participants.

All kinds of information on individuals can be efficiently saved and retrieved using Excel. An individual’s records in a spreadsheet can include information such as name, email address, start date, things purchased, subscription status, flights taken, and last contact.

Jobs in Human Resource and People Management:

  • Client Relationship Manager, 
  • Client Service Manager, 
  • Employer Service Consultant, 
  • HR Administrator, 
  • Human Resources Consultant,
  • Human Resources Analyst, 
  • Reconciliation and Payments Officer, 
  • Relationship Managers of all kinds.
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3. Performance Reporting

Performance monitoring and reporting is a special type of business analysis that may be accomplished effectively with Microsoft Excel.

An Excel pivot table is a standard approach to converting data into a performance report. You may easily extract relevant information from a dataset by introducing a pivot table and attaching it to the data. Pivot tables include a plethora of built-in functions that enable operations such as counting and summing specific sorts of data inside the dataset.

For example, you want to count the instance a specific brand is sold in a region. Even if this organization had thousands of sales records, a pivot table can extract the required information in the blink of an eye.

Jobs in Performance Reporting:

  • Financial Accountant, 
  • Forecast Analyst/Sales Support, 
  • Performance Analyst, 
  • Procurement Analyst, 
  • Professional Services Operations Analyst, 
  • Reporting Analyst.

4. Managing Operations

Many organizations rely significantly on the features of MS Excel to handle their day-to-day operations. Business activities frequently involve intricate logistics, for example. 

Inventory flows must be managed in order to keep operations running smoothly and without overstocking specific items. This includes keeping track of supplier and customer transactions, creating a calendar of important dates, and managing time and schedules for deliveries.

While large companies like Amazon employ sophisticated proprietary software for operations management, many small to medium size businesses rely on Microsoft Excel exclusively.

Excel has the advantage of being relatively low-tech, allowing it to be utilized by a large number of individuals with very basic level training.

Jobs in Managing Operations:

  • Supply Chain and Operations Managers, 
  • In-Market Supply Chain Analyst, 
  • Operational Business Analyst, 
  • Operational Enablement Associate, 
  • Operational Knowledge Management Specialist, 
  • Supply Chain Specialist, 
  • Business Operations Analyst, 
  • Data Operations Manager.
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5. Strategic Analysis

Strategic analysis is simply using Excel in making strategic business decisions that are intimately linked to the data in spreadsheets. You can use Excel to take strategic decisions on things like investments and asset allocations.

As an example, Excel can help you analyze the performance of various investments to help you develop your quarterly investment strategies. 

Jobs in Strategic Analysis:

  • Asset Manager - Realty Management Division, 
  • Valuations Analyst for Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Campaigns Strategist,
  • Portfolio Administrators and Analysts, 
  • Wealth Managers.

6. Office Administration

Office administrators utilize Microsoft Excel to enter and retain critical administrative data. The same data can be used for accounting and financial reporting, as well as operations analysis and performance reporting in the future.

Excel is useful in office administration for assisting day-to-day duties such as invoicing, paying bills, and contacting suppliers and clients, in addition to recordkeeping. It's a multi-purpose program for tracking and organizing workplace operations.

Jobs in Office Administration:

  • Administrative Officer, 
  • Administrative Supervisor, 
  • Business Operations and Office Manager, 
  • Clerical and Administrative Officer, 
  • Office Admin Manager,
  • Any administrative position that requires you to manage people or places.

7. Project Management

Although project managers have access to project management (PM) software, an Excel worksheet is frequently a viable option.

Projects are business operations with a budget and a start and finish date. Project plans can be entered into a workbook, which can be used to track progress and keep the project on track. A Gantt chart in Excel can be used to lay out tasks in terms of durations and critical dates.

One advantage of utilizing Excel is that it is simple to share the project worksheet with others, especially those who are unfamiliar with or do not have access to proprietary PM software.

By the way, if you are new to project management here is a list of the best project management books for beginners.

Jobs in Project Management:

  • Project Analyst, 
  • Project Assistant/Officer (IT), 
  • Project Business Analyst.

8. Account Management

Account managers are often expected to be proficient Excel workbook users because they receive and keep customer records. Excel is often used in account management because it makes it easy to communicate and preserve customer files.

An account manager's responsibility is to cultivate relationships with the company's existing clients. Customer loyalty and repeat sales are important objectives. It's a marketing role that's popular among MBA graduates.

Keeping track of your sales funnel is a great example of using Excel for account management. You can use various visual tools in Excel to quickly analyze your sales conversion rates and performance.

Jobs in Account Management:

  • Advertising Manager,
  • Account Coordinator,  
  • Design Studio Account Manager, 
  • Digital Account Manager,
  • Any position that requires you to manage or interact with clients.

9. Managing Programs

Microsoft Excel is an excellent tool for program management. It is adaptable to the individual properties of a given software. Furthermore, because MS Excel is widely used, program records may be easily managed by numerous people and turned over to new management when the time comes.

A program is similar to a project, except it can be ongoing and reliant on user engagement. Excel assists managers in allocating resources, tracking progress, and maintaining participant information. Pivot tables are beneficial in this situation because they can be quickly created to summarize vast amounts of data in a simple cross-tabular style.

Jobs in Managing Programs:

  • Learning and Development Officer, 
  • Programs and Office Coordinator, 
  • Records and Results Coordinator, 
  • Training Administrator,
  • Any position that requires you to manage a program of any kind.

10. Contract Administration

Contract administrators use Microsoft Excel because it provides a simple way to record contract details such as dates, milestones, deliverables, and payments.

There are numerous ready-made contract management templates available, and they can be tailored to the specific contract type or stage of the contract lifecycle.

As an example, a building contract estimator can use Excel to keep track of all the tasks and the costs associated with them. This will help him remain on budget.

Jobs in Managing Programs:

  • Contracts Administrator,
  • Building/Construction Supervisors, 
  • Estimator/Contracts Administrator, 
  • Lease Administrator, 
  • Quote and Tender Administrator.

11. Historical logs

On a more personal level, there are many uses of MS Excel in daily life. You can even use Excel to keep track of personal data. For example, people who go to the gym regularly use Excel to keep track of the reps and sets they do during each workout. This helps show them the progress they are making.

Similarly, runners keep track of data like distance, average speed, calories burned, weight etc. Pretty handy if you are trying to work towards a 5k run or even just lose weight.

12. Calendars and Schedules

Another great example of using Excel for personal use is planning journeys and vacations. When my friend recently went on a European vacation he had his entire journey planned out in Excel. 

He knew which flight to catch and which train to take to save on fairs. He had planned times of arrival and departure in each city with a list of things to do at that location. In short, by using Excel he not only managed his time well he saved a lot of money because he could plan and note each step of his journey.

Final Words

Excel is a spreadsheet application from Microsoft. It is used to generate grids of text, numbers, and formulas that help with calculations. This is particularly useful for many companies, which use it to record expenditures and income, create budgets, chart data, and report financial results.

It can be configured to pull data from other sources such as stock market feeds and run it through formulas such as financial models in real-time. Excel, like Microsoft Word, has become a de facto business standard, with spreadsheets commonly emailed and electronically shared to trade data and conduct various analyses.

In this article, we showed you some popular uses for Excel but in reality, the ways in which you can use the program are limited only by your imagination.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Microsoft Excel and when would it be used?

What are 5 common uses for Microsoft Excel?

Why do people use Excel?

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