Top n Lists with Excel

I love data! I love collecting it, analyzing it, finding answers inside it, and ultimately presenting it. But even I find it hard at times to sort through and make sense of it all. That’s why I love dashboards and really encourage all business owners, managers, and employees to incorporate them into their daily work lives. Whether it’s having a clear look into the health of the company, figuring out which expenses are out of hand, or understanding how fast (or slow) customers are paying their bills; well prepared and presented dashboards can save decision makers a lot of time and money.

One of the most fundamental things you can achieve with dashboards is the filtering of data, narrowing information into the most pertinent, important, or actionable. Commonly in the form of top n lists, where n is any number of items you care to look at, using MS Excel to organize this type of information is actually fairly simple. Even if you are allergic to dashboards or any structured system for understanding information, there are certainly other applications for it. Maybe you’re keeping a running total of the minutes your basketball players are logging, trying to avoid fatigue. Or you want to continually look at which products are your best sellers. Or maybe you just want to keep track of and reward your top sales people. Again, all of this is easy and made possible with Excel. Read more of this post

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YOY Comparison for Most Recent Days

Comparing Same Day Sales YOY

In my last post, Showing Activity for Most Recent Days, I showed you how to find the most recent date for which you have “totals” data.  We found that whether it’s support calls or sales made each day, being able to retrieve this information quickly and efficiently can be extremely helpful.   By using the ROUNDDOWN AND MAX functions, as well as the very powerful SUMPRODUCT,  we were able to create a quick summary of the most recent days’ activity. The obvious next question?  How do those days compare with the same time last year.  In other words, using the most recent data, how are things going compared to last year?

We already have the first several pieces of the puzzle, the current year’s sales information.  To compare the data to last year, we simply find the totals for the same dates in the previous year.  We can determine these dates these dates fairly easy by using the CONCATENATE formula, along with the popular and well known MONTH and YEAR formulas. Read more of this post

Showing Activity for Most Recent Days

I’m working on a dashboard for a company that sell tee shirts to high school sports programs.  They get their data from an online database which includes day and time of order as well as order amount. But, you could apply the same methodology to any data that is updated often, whether you are copying and pasting into Excel, importing from or linking to an Access database, or connecting to an ODBC data source. (Of course I didn’t use the company’s actual data; I used a cool trick to generate random dates and times for events for my sample data.)

At any given point, management of Acme SportsTees, Inc. would like to see the last 10 days of sales activity.  The trick to dashboards; and in my opinion, any process or task you are trying to automate; is removing from the process as much human involvement (thinking, typing, more thinking) as possible.  So, if you are able to connect directly to the data source, or at least reduce the actions required by the administrator to just copying and pasting, you will significantly reduce the opportunity for human error and a lot of headaches. Read more of this post

Generating Random Times for Events

Generating Random Times for EventsIf you are ever in the need for sample data where the events (sales, support calls, etc.) occur several times throughout any given day, here is a neat little trick to accomplish that. One might think the RANDBETWEEN function, which generates a random integer between two numbers that you feed the function, would do the trick. Well, because RANDBETWEEN only returns whole numbers, the time of the day is always going to be at midnight.

To add increments that are less than one day, you would need to add numbers less than one (i.e. not whole numbers). For example adding 0.25 would take the time to 6 am; 0.5 to noon, and 0.75 6 pm. Luckily, adding a number less than one is easy. The RAND function, which generates a number between 0 and 1, does all of the work you.

To generate a list of random times, then, simply start with whatever date you wish in the first row of your data. All is needed in each cell afterward is the addition of Rand(). After adding Rand() to the previous cell, simply copy (or drag) the formula for as many entries as you wish. See attached for example. If, when you’ve finished the copying/dragging, you don’t see enough entries in each day (only 6 am, 2 pm, and 11:30 pm— 3 entries—for example), simply divide Rand() by 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5), to make the increment each time smaller. Pretty straightforward, huh?

Example: Generating Random Times and Dates

Trend and Growth Functions

Data can be analyzed in a lot of different ways.  Excel has dozens of tools and functions that make high-level statistical analysis not only possible, but in many cases fairly easy to use.

Researchers of all types (medicine, anthropology, sociology, entomology are a few of several fields) use statistics extensively.  Larger corporate companies also spend resources on analyzing, reporting, and making business decisions based on statistical analysis.

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