Microsoft Excel is commonly used for data analysis because it’s part of the popular Microsoft Office Suite and it even comes pre-installed on some computers!
Unlike statistical analysis packages like, SAS and SPSS, Excel is relatively inexpensive and widely accessible to small businesses and mid-sized businesses in a variety of industries including healthcare, finance, sales and marketing etc.
Microsoft Excel is used in organizing and analyzing data, performing complex calculations as well as creating graphical displays.
Microsoft Excel’s user-friendly interface makes data entry convenient and it also comes loaded with a wide array of mathematical, statistical, financial functions and a Data Analysis ToolPak.
In the hands of a well-trained and creative Data Analyst, Excel can be used for real-world business data modeling and decision making including cost/benefit analysis, sales forecasting, time series analysis and product demand curves.
So how do you become that expert Data Analyst in whose hands Microsoft Excel becomes a well-tuned instrument?
Let’s take a look at a question posted by a reader:
My toughest challenge is trying to understand techniques to analyze data in Excel.
I am trying to get a data analyst role but find it hard to analyze data in excel for the interview tests.
How do you think I can improve my skills?
How To Become an Expert Microsot Excel Data Analyst:
Become an Expert Microsoft Excel User
Before you can use Microsoft Excel effectively, you will need to thoroughly familiarize yourself with everything it has to offer.
For example, one of the handy features of Excel is the ability to record macros and perform frequently repeated tasks with just on or two keystrokes.
It is the knowledge of techniques like these that can make you an effective Microsoft Excel user on the long-run.
Learn how to organize data in Excel with feature such as worksheet or workbook links for handling large amounts of frequently updated data.
Take an Excel training class, thoroughly study a good book on Microsoft Excel using the IT Career Coach Process described in this ebook and practice.
Gain a Foundation in Statistical Analysis
Without a good understanding of statistical analysis, Excel will remain an empty shell with which you can do nothing.
Excel can crunch your numbers, but you have to choose the functions that apply to your situation.
You will also need to understand statistical analysis concepts like linear regression, standard deviation, variance, etc.
Gain the Mindset of a Data Analyst
Data analysts think in a certain way. For example, they have trained their minds to ask “What If” questions or to see trends, patterns or even anomalies in data!
When a business manager asks “What are our sales numbers for the XYZ product for the month of November?” the Microsoft Excel data analyst has to load and interprete that in an Excel sheet and then present a shiny “manager-speak‘ report.
As a data analyst, you will have to understand your company’s data, how and where it is stored and how to access it correctly using Microsoft Excel.
You will also need to ask the right questions and use mathematical or statistical functions in solving data problems.
There’s no easy way to get the mindset of a data analyst. You either learn it on the job or you get it through mentorship and internships.
Learn to Customize Excel for Advanced Uses
Once you know how to use the general functions in Microsoft Excel, you need to take your skills up a notch by learning to create custom data analysis programs for your company.
Eventually, you will find out the tasks you perform repeatedly, can be customized or automated, freeing up more time!
This will also involve learning how to develop Microsoft Office Excel programs using Excel’s built-in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).
This VBA feature of Excel allows you to create complex macros and programs for large or sophisticated amounts of data crunching.