Microsoft Excel is a powerful type of spreadsheet software that was developed by Microsoft to aid with data analysis and documentation. Part of the Microsoft Office suite, Excel’s spreadsheet is composed of columns and rows, which intersect to form cells. Every cell contains one data point or piece of information. Training in Excel allows users to quickly perform complicated tasks with these cells, such as trend identification or conditional formatting, and to share retrieved data with others. These functions have direct application to Data Analysts, as well as anyone else working with big data, as they simplify the process of organizing, retrieving, and sharing data.
For over thirty-five years, Excel has been used by those in a variety of professions, from business operations to data analytics. This industry-standard spreadsheet software is simple enough for even those with a non-technical background to operate, which makes it a staple for many office jobs, especially those that require organizing large sets of data.
Excel is among the tools most used by Data Analysts for several reasons:
- Information entered or imported into a spreadsheet can be easily viewed and organized.
- Excel’s straightforward and clear organization makes it easier to retrieve data and draw insights from this information.
- Spreadsheet data yields actionable insights, like marketing trends, revenue patterns, profit margins, departmental budgets, and operations information.
- Users can work with complex data in Excel by customizing fields and functions that will perform calculations.
- Large datasets of segmented data can be carefully studied and visualized without the need to use other software.
- Spreadsheets offer a microcosmic version of a much larger project.
- This software provides accurate calculations and accessible visual representations of information.
Although there are many benefits to working with Excel, this tool also has a few limitations Data Analysts should be aware of:
- It isn’t scalable
- It is susceptible to human error; it has no way of checking for data-entry mistakes, which means that it’s possible for incorrect information to skew results.
- Working with large datasets can create limits in the notebook and time limits on the computer
- If a file is too large, Excel will run very slowly
Despite these few downsides, Excel remains an affordable and reliable tool for analytics, which is why there are currently more than 750 million Excel users worldwide.
The Most Important Excel Functions for Data Analytics
Data Analysts rely on several tools that can break down data. Excel is a core part of most analysts’ repertoire. It has dozens of functions and formulas that provide users with a straightforward means of organizing and manipulating datasets, as well as spotting important information. Some of these functions and formulas are especially helpful for Data Analysts, such as:
- PivotTables: They allow users to aggregate data in order to isolate a smaller subset without the need for manual filters. The filters on these tables are easy to use and change.
- CONCATENATE: This powerful formula allows users to combine numbers, dates, and text from multiple cells into one cell. This function can be used to create Java queries, product SKUs, and API endpoints.
- VLOOKUP: This is Excel’s most popular function, and is used to combine two datasets. It is particularly helpful for retrieving small pieces of information from a dataset. Comprehensive tutorials are available online that teach users learn how to use this function.
- FIND/SEARCH: These functions provide a way to isolate specific information within a larger dataset. Unique identifiers and anomalies can easily be spotted using this function.
- XLOOKUP: This function was created in 2020 to provide a solution to the problems with Index Match and VLOOKUP. Although it’s not compatible with past Excel versions, it runs quickly and is user-friendly.
- Text Formulas: These text functions, such as LEFT, RIGHT, and SUBSTITUTE, help users extract a limited amount of text from a large dataset.
- Analysis ToolPak: This free Excel add-on enables users to perform different kinds of statistical testing within their Excel notebook.
- SUMIFS: This function allows users to specify criteria, and then sum the values within that range that satisfy the criteria.
- Conditional Formatting: This tool is used to distinguish important data from less important data on a spreadsheet.
- Macros: A macro is an action or set of actions that can be used to automate tasks in Excel that must be done repeatedly. It records mouse clicks and keystrokes.
Most Data Analysts who use Excel for daily work tasks use several of these functions and formulas in concert when handling datasets.
Hands-On Excel Classes
Working with Excel is a core skill in many industries, including data analytics. Employers often seek out those with Excel training to fill job openings. If you’re interested in learning how to work with Excel, or improving on your existing Excel skills, Noble Desktop’s Excel classes are a great option. These courses are taught in-person in NYC and are also available in the live online format.
In addition, more than 30 live online Excel classes are available from a variety of top providers. These small classes are offered for those who are new to Excel, as well as intermediate and advanced Excel users hoping to gain a better understanding of the software’s many uses and functions.
Those who are committed to learning Excel in an intensive educational environment may also consider enrolling in Noble Desktop’s Excel Bootcamp. This three-day course provides an intensive and immersive learning experience and takes students from beginner to pro in just 21 hours. Participants learn relevant skills like how to work with Macros, PivotTables, and various formulas and functions that help save time and increase efficiency.
For those searching for an Excel class nearby, Noble’s Excel Classes Near Me tool provides an easy way to locate and browse 100-plus Excel classes that are currently offered in the in-person and live online formats. Classes are available in topics like Excel for Business, Formulas & Functions, and Excel Charts, Formatting, and Reporting. Course lengths range from three hours to five days and cost $119-$2,775.