Customized Excel Solutions - Any Need, Any Fit
Excel has its own place of honor within organizational information systems. It provides a wide range of capabilities such as data storage, reporting, analysis and collaboration tool. Excel is widely used in organizations as a tool for data analysis, management, reports and other goals. This fact locates Excel and other Office applications within the core data systems realm. Advanced utilization of Office platforms capabilities (like VBA, VSTO), especially in Excel, can provide added-value to business users.
Let's focus on businesses. We'll distinguish among small, medium and corporate firms that imply to different usage habits of excel and try to map ecxel's role there. Corporations of all types (industrial, financial, security and others), almost by default, comprise massive information systems to support their business processes.
For instance, a big industrial company usually has several core software systems to support processes throughout entire business. Starting with research and development department, via supply chain including logistics and production, passing by marketing and sales, covering finance, including human resources, and reaching distribution and service processes. All above rely on dedicated information system like MRP, SCM, ERP, CRM, and more. Apparently, in this scenario excel's role is supplementary. Most usually, excel serves as an available platform that helps to analyze specific data. Analysts spend hours of working time to retrieve reports from core systems and translate raw data to meaningful information. However, suprising or not, significant number of corporations use excel and other office platforms to design supporting tools or systems for some specific processes, that are not detailed enough in core systems. In particular, it occurs when legacy systems are still there. But not only. Among other reasons are structure of IT policy. Centralized IT governance, driven by organizational corporate objectives and budgets allocations, sometimes forces users to seek alternatives, i.e. when some processes are not supported enough or at all by information systems and won't be in close future. Here comes MS Office as available alternative with excel as a leader. Now, when no other choice given, you need to design a model in excel to support your process. You can reach your goal in a hard way, with intensive periodical manual work, utilizing basic functionalities of excel. Or, you can use the enormous capabilities like VBA programming, SQL engines, connectivity to other platforms and even web interfaces. Building a system within unmatched schedules and good performance is possible.
Among Excel features and use case scenarios are:
- Data models and data management
- Data collection and storage
- Data analysis and reporting
- Advanced visual capabilities
- Automation capabilities and programming development support
- Integration with office suite components
Excel development has a surprising potential. Its numerous functionality, simple and complex, allow powerful data analysis possibilities as well as customized data management solutions integrated with other data sources or as a standalone model. MS Office platforms are available at about 95% of business, governmental, educational, academic and other organizations. Utilizing existing Excel and other Office applications capabilities provide a wide range of applied functionality and models. However, only 3% to 7% of users master advanced features and implement effective usage of Excel. Experienced excel expert is capable of agile and cost-effective solution with immediate added-value for organization.
When Excel is the appropriate solution?
The appropriate solution should be considered subject to needs. We can distinguish among two major scenarios:
1) There is an existing data software infrastructure - required are additional features in existing system, that estimated to be expensive and last for several months to years
2) There is no an existing data system - required customized and independent solution
It is recommended to define the need, number of users, use cases and additional factors. For example, when you need to analyze data from various data sources, Excel can serve as a fast and cost effective solution. In case of multiple remote users, alternative platform for development should be considered.
Variety of possibilities to integrate excel solutions is really wide:
- KPI management system
- Suppliers/Buyers measurement tool
- Production plan builder
- Production control model
- Inventory control model
Quality & Service
- Service calls analysis system
- Quality performance systems
- Production process QA
- Expenses reporting management system
- Pensions calculator
- Risk management tool
- Profit and loss reports
- Product profitability model
Business Intelligence (BI)
- Customers measurement system
- Profitability dashboards
- Research data analysis
- Service expense reports
- Inventory BI
- Project management tool
- Working hours control tool
- Vacations calculator (tourism)
- Google AdWords customized analytics
- Marketing campaigns analysis