Every company needs a powerful, impactful financial reporting tool to remain competitive in their industry. Report writers help companies analyze and manage company data without leaving any issues or disruptions. Given how well-known Microsoft Excel is, it might be a shock that many people design their spreadsheets with no planning at all. This means that most spreadsheets have a poor foundation, which leaves room for potential problems. This article covers design and planning strategies with financial tools that are Excel-based, so you are able to better use your report writers to navigate your company in analyzing and managing your data using Sage.
You can find 10 tips based on the Best Practices for Spreadsheet Design Whitepaper created by Solver’s Training Manager, Tina Lee, here:
1) Spreadsheet Development
Keep related data within one tab. Spreadsheets that do not follow this limit their ability to take advantage of Excel’s features, such as PivotTables, worksheet formulas, functions, and subtotals.
2) Data Layout
The larger items on your workbook will get the most attention. People have the propensity to quickly scan the headings of the columns and rows to get a sense of how the information is structured on the spreadsheet. A clear layout gives people an idea on what is the most important and where they should start when handling and analyzing data.
3) Workbook Performance Enhancement
Using fewer, large workbooks will be more efficient rather than using several smaller linked workbooks. When you find it necessary to use linked workbooks, open all linked workbooks in order to enhance your performance.
4) Validate Your Data
Data validation helps minimize data entry mistakes and makes it easier to evaluate and report on the data. Data validation enables the workbook designer to limit what is input into selected cells with dropdown lists and with error or informational messages. Data validation can also help identify potential mistakes by using the invalid data circle option. This can be set from the Data tab and Data Tools group.
5) Use Absolute or Relative References
When you copy and paste a formula that contains cell reference, your Excel program will change your calculation based on the new cell location. If your calculations in the new cell are incorrect or blank, this may be it. The way to prevent this shift is by using an Absolute reference with the use of the ‘$’ sign.
6) Cell Protection Options
Protection options give the designer of the workbook the power to choose specific users who are allowed to select or edit a cell or range. Excel helps the designer to define which cells in your workbook should be edited. It can also enable the designer to control which users are able to insert columns and rows as well as remove data. The designer can protect the format as well.
7) Color Benefits
For those who are not skilled with numbers, add color to your spreadsheet design as working on a black and white grid with a large amount of numbers can be mundane and overwhelming. Add some color to the worksheet to highlight important information on your spreadsheets. Select fun colors such as bright green, mint, or purple with tools like Cell Styles, Conditional Formatting or standard color options.
8) Avoid Merging Cells
Stay away from merging cells. I only say this because when it comes time to sort through your data, merged cells within that data range will prevent you from being able to properly sort through the data. Instead, I suggest you go to Format Cells, select the Alignment tab, and from the Horizontal drop box, select Center Across Selection to have a label centered across multiple cells. This creates the same image, but will not impede with your sorting abilities.
9) Hide Unnecessary Calculation Sheets
It is pretty common for Excel files to have many worksheets. Some worksheets contain raw data, other worksheets contain calculations, and only a couple with the final output. To make things clear when sharing and creating formulas, name your ranges as it makes it much easier to select large areas of data and can make formulas easier to understanding with descriptive names. Remember that when creating a formula, the name range populates much like the function names. This reduces the formula overhead and creates a faster workbook process.
10) Named ranges and formulas
Rather than pointing every tab to reference a “total” cell, I suggest creating a named range to group the totals from each sheet together. This will help you to select the named range from the function menu and create a summary total sheet, which then picks up the total from each tab.
When looking to upgrade your reporting tool with Excel and Web-based solutions, you should invest in modern Excel add-ins like BI360. BI360 is a business data warehouse, so you can combine your Sage with any other data source – and use it in the reporting process and in the budgeting process as well as in the dashboard analysis. Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s web-powered, easy-to-use Excel and mobile BI tools with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, budgeting and collaboration as a way to accelerate company performance management using Sage.
Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.