When you think of Excel, you probably just think of spreadsheets and basic formula. Don’t worry, it’s a common perception. But the reality is Excel can be one of the most powerful tools in your business arsenal – that is if you know how to use it like a pro. In particular, the automation of complex tasks and formula, as well as using automation to create datasets for further analysis, can bring a lot of value to your business. To get you started, there are two tools that can help.
The term VBA stands for Visual Basic for Applications – a programming language used in all Microsoft Office applications, including Excel. In essence, it’s an offshoot of the Visual Basic computer language that Microsoft created in the 90s and allows interaction between Office applications. On a basic level, VBA can be used for efficiency when a simple copy and paste does not do what you want, or it is too slow. You can use VBA programming to interact with and share the details of two or more Office applications at the same time and then modify the content in one application based on the content in another.
But it is way more advanced than simply copying and pasting data. You can use VBA to write complex scripts that customise the application to suit your needs. It was designed to be simple enough for even a novice programmer to start with but has the power to automate processes and create new capabilities within the programme. In short, VBA is the key to unlock all of that enormous power behind Excel and allows you to add even more techniques to your virtual tool belt.
When it comes to Excel, there are a wide range of things you can do with the right VBA project. For example, you can:
- Automate repetitive tasks like data migration
- Generate text and visual reports based on data from Excel and other databases
- Automatically format, delete and rearrange data ready for output
- Change registry settings
- Simplify complex tasks to a single button click
And much more. VBA scripts allow you to turn complex, time-consuming tasks into automated processes, saving time and improve the quality of your reporting. You can opt for using a pre-made VBA script, or you could create your own to make sure it does exactly what you need it to. Many people aren’t aware of the power of VBA scripts in Excel, but with a little bit of help and support, they could create some amazing solutions – from the complicated reporting to routine, much simpler.
Power Query is another of Excel’s tools and it requires no coding knowledge, making the most complex functions accessible to all users, regardless of skill. Power Query is designed to make connections to various data sources and then shape that data in ways to meet your needs. At its core it’s an Extract, Transform, and Load tool (or ETL) that helps Excel and Power BI users connect to data, transform and shape the data as needed and then reload and save that data for future use. Not only can you shape and reshape your own data and load it ready for use, but you can also use it as a data cleansing tool to manage your data more efficiently, or to combine data from multiple spreadsheets into a single workbook.
Beyond that, Power Query can be used to scrape data from websites, audit your existing data to find similarities and differences in line with your needs, and even create data from scratch using other programmes. There are hundreds of other things Power Query can do, but to explain them all would take quite a bit of time! Instead, know that no matter what your needs from Excel are, Power Query has the capabilities to make your life better, whether that’s writing VLOOKUP formulas or having to cleanse data from your spreadsheets manually, wasting hours that could be spent on better things.
At XL Intelligence, we love Excel and all the amazing things it can do, and we hope soon you will as well. As Power BI and Excel consultants, we work with business owners and employees like you to help you make the most of Excel, uncovering the hidden power you might not have known it had. We provide a range of solutions, from consultancy to training, helping your business use Excel more efficiently and effectively. We work with organisations across a wide range of industries, from legal to IT, finance, engineering and even psychology. If you would like to find out more, just get in touch with us today.