Working with the range YOU want

As business leaders, we are always looking at and analyzing data.  Some of the most common activities involve looking at a range of data or values and calculating the total or average.  Examples might include wanting to know the total sales for a specific store in 2009.  Or the average sales in the last quarter.  Or perhaps we want to know the best selling day (or the worst, for that matter) for a specific store, within a specific date range.

To answer questions like this, most of us use Microsoft Excel to create a fixed table.  We then add a fixed formula into a cell to calculate one of the pieces of information (average or max value, for example) we are looking for.  The problem with this approach is that you often want to change the range you are looking at.  When I’m looking at data, for example, and trying to identify trends and make realistic forecasts, I often find it a better predictor to look at the most recent months versus, say, the last twelve.  You’ll hear me say this time and time again- that I like to take the approach of making things quick and simpler in the long run.  This often takes more time initially, in the short run- to think about, to set up, to develop the appropriate “tool”.

In addressing a situation like this, I’d take the approach of developing a tool that allowed as much flexibility as possible.

If you look at the attached spreadsheet (Excel 2007 or Earlier Versions), you’ll see a lot of stuff going on.  Please do not be alarmed.  It’s really not that difficult.  Below, I’ve provided a few notes, in case you have trouble navigating.  Also, feel free to comment if you have questions.

  1. I created cells with validation for the store (B7), Range Start Date (B9), and Range End Date (B11) I wish to analyze.
  2. The Data Validation uses the first row for its list options; this is a great habit to develop when you are asking for input from the user; it prevents typos and other errors
  3. The four formulas used to calculate the Total, Average, Maximum, and Minimum are the exact same except for the first part.
  4. The four formulas appear to be complicated, but they really aren’t.  They basically take the information the user provides (City, Range Start and End Dates) and use that to calculate what the range in the formula should be.  For Example, if the user selected “San Francisco”, “Jan 2010”, and “Jun 2010”, the range acted upon would be B2:G2; If you changed the city to “Chicago” and the End Date to “Nov 2010”, the range changes to B3:L3.
  5. Just to add a cool feature (I always do that to make things more fun; otherwise, this stuff gets, as my daughter says, ‘BOR-ING’), I’ve added conditional formatting to highlight the range being worked with.  To see how I did that, Go to the Conditional Formatting section and click on ‘manage rules’.

Have fun.  And be sure to post comments if you have questions.  I’m also always here to help you with your business solution issues.


About bbluford
I am an executive finance professional with a love for process and application development (MS Access, Excel, Quickbooks), mostly as it relates to Accounting and Business Functions. I also love to write and share ideas with other people in this world. I'm an admitted Gym Rat who works out excessively. The best summation of me is that I love to teach and to learn.

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