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Using Excel Spreadsheets to Make Business Decisions for Successful Outcomes

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Basic knowledge of Excel is common in the business world. The software program has long been used as a spreadsheet tool for storing and organizing data. However, the capabilities of Excel have advanced over the years, making it a powerful option for modeling data and informing decision-making across business functions.

Developing advanced Excel skills and examining use of the software in decision-making are key focuses of the Southern Oregon University (SOU) Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Information Analysis and Decision-Making online program. Through this study, students in the program gain expertise in using Excel to drive business success on many levels.

What Types of Advanced Features Does Excel Offer?

Microsoft Excel is fundamentally a spreadsheet software program. Excel entered wide use decades ago, offering the ability to store relatively large amounts of data, organize the data in customizable ways and automate routine tasks and calculations.

The capabilities of spreadsheet software programs dramatically increased efficiency and accuracy in number-crunching business functions like accounting. Information became easier to retrieve, explore and analyze. The evolution of Excel’s features has advanced these capabilities and the program’s usability substantially.

For example, modern Excel spreadsheets lend themselves to any number of targeted uses. notes how beneficial Excel’s templates can be for startups. These templates streamline spreadsheet creation for everything from payroll and project management to supply chain and inventory management. Advanced users can further customize Excel spreadsheets to automate complex business tasks.

Excel also makes importing and exporting data possible, which allows integration with other systems and applications. Cloud-based Excel software gives shared spreadsheet access to teams and departments, facilitating collaboration. In addition, the platform incorporates numerous features for visualizing data with graphs, charts and other dashboard tools. These data visualization and organization tools help business users model, understand and draw meaning from data analysis.

How Can Businesses Use Excel’s Capabilities to Inform Decision-Making?

As explains, “Any effective future planning activity naturally needs to be informed by a clear picture of the present and past, a task spreadsheets are ideally placed to assist.” Hence, at a basic level, spreadsheets house the information businesses need to make informed decisions.

Excel’s customization, data analysis and visualization tools expand on this basic attribute of spreadsheets. For instance, an article from The Excel Experts covers the customization of Excel dashboards for visual representation of information and metrics.

When users can grasp business metrics from dashboard graphs, they can make informed decisions quickly. Excel’s automated reports can give deeper insight into performance metrics and allow monitoring of functions like inventory management, sales tracking and cash flow. When the data is clean, such Excel tools provide users with actionable, accurate and timely information. Decision makers can then optimize operations, forecast and iterate ongoing strategy.

What Kinds of Businesses and Users Can Benefit from Excel?

According to Accounting Today, Excel is used for financial tasks, planning and other operations by nearly 90% of modern companies. Investopedia states that “a working knowledge of Excel is vital for most office based professionals today, and stronger Excel skills can open the door to promotion and leadership opportunities.” It follows that expanding one’s Excel skills can be an important step in advancing most any career in business.

Investopedia further notes that “any function in any industry can benefit from those with strong Excel knowledge,” highlighting the scope of professionals who can profit from integrating the use of Excel into everything from routine tasks and spreadsheet warehousing to complex operations and data-driven decision-making.

Large companies might use Excel for certain functions and broader enterprise-wide software solutions for others. The ease with which Excel can import and export large datasets facilitates information system integration of this type. While entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses may not have the budget for enterprise-scale solutions, such businesses can use Excel’s advanced features for data storage, task automation, organization, data visualization and analysis solutions. These capabilities make Excel spreadsheets invaluable for growing a business.

Developing such expertise is the focus of SOU’s course, Building Decision-Making and Business Analysis Models Using Excel. This study prepares students to apply Excel’s advanced capabilities to the decision-making processes at the core of a business leader’s responsibilities.

Taking advantage of Excel’s advanced features to make effective, data-informed decisions requires a certain level of expertise. By developing this expertise, business owners and other working professionals can leverage Excel’s capabilities to achieve positive outcomes for companies of all types and sizes.

Learn more about Southern Oregon University’s MBA with a Concentration in Information Analysis and Decision-Making online program.

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