Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) combines the tools we know best (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) packages them as a monthly or annual subscription, and combines them in an online suite of cloud-connected services, including file storage, email, and other communication and organizational tools.
This week’s feature looks at the tools and benefits for small businesses using Microsoft Excel. Most people are familiar, if not completely comfortable, with the data formatting and math formula tools available in Excel. Let’s dive into some of the benefits of using Excel through Microsoft 365.
It’s common knowledge that Excel gives you the flexibility to create spreadsheets from templates, create your own template, and use formulas for quick calculation. However, recent additions to the charts and graphs tool give you more options for presenting your data attractively and convincingly, through formatting, sparklines, and tables. There is also a forecast tool to help you create better trend predictions with just a click of a button.
Like the calendar and Word feature in Microsoft 365, Excel workbooks are shareable and give you the functionality of real-time collaboration. You can work on an Excel file from your smartphone, desktop, or the cloud.
Excel’s new image recognition function means you no longer have to enter hard copy data manually or recreate a table from a paper document. Just use the Excel app to take a picture of the document and automatically convert the picture into an editable table in Excel. This makes inputting data that much easier and is a really clever tool that makes it easy to work with Excel, especially when you need to access data that is not available in the cloud or on your hard drive.
Excel has an incredible selection of templates that make organizing your finances both easy and enjoyable. The templates are attractive and cover a range of life events and financial planning needs. From a simplified transaction tracker to a budget planner for marketing, you’ll find a template for just about any small business need. (Not to mention the myriad options for personal finances. Raise your hand if you made a boring black and white template for your wedding budget like me! Updating that spreadsheet would have been less of a chore with one of the beautiful templates available in Microsoft 365.) There are even templates that autofill graphs and pie charts, giving you a quick visual of where your money is going and how it breaks down across spending categories. Financial transactions can also be easily imported into Excel, making it even easier to hit the ground running with this tool.
Additional finance tools in Excel include profit/loss statements, standardized invoices, and complex calculations for pay stubs that include all pertinent employee details (sick days, overtime, tax info), allowing you to fulfill all your small business financial needs with one product. Excel even has a vacation planner which you can use with time card information to plan ahead for both busy and understaffed seasons. A payroll calculator helps you ensure that your employees are being correctly compensated.
Another benefit of the timecard tool is that you can track time spent on specific tasks.Whether your business charges by the hour or by project for services, this tool will give you the information you need to bill clients appropriately, while helping your staff work more efficiently and giving you a snapshot of how your team prioritizes tasks and spends their time. If a task or a project becomes overdue, you’ll be able to drill down and see what took the most time or held up the workflow. This provides incredible value in helping your team work at peak efficiency.
If your small business provides goods rather than services, Excel has solutions for tracking inventory. This is also helpful if you operate out of a physical location and need a place to track office products (furniture, computers, standard office supplies, etc.) You can track not just your inventory, but the quality of your physical items and even the condition and projected date for replacement. This helps you look ahead and make intelligent purchasing decisions, whether you’re replacing office chairs for your whole team, or working with your supplier to reorder the physical goods that your small business provides. Either way, keeping a close eye on this helps you to avoid financial surprises because you can predict when you’ll need to be making your next orders. With inventory tracking, you can record unit prices, quantity, reorder levels, reorder time, and virtually any other metric you can think of, making this a truly flexible and efficient tool.
Many small businesses can’t afford a costly (though valuable) tool for Constituent Relationship Management. Excel can actually work as a CRM system if you input lead data. Excel is extremely user friendly, both for access and editing, which makes it a cost-effective way to experiment with CRM. And if you combine it with a tool like Sharepoint, then you have the benefit of allowing multiple employees to access and utilize your data with CRM capabilities in mind.
And if you are really interested going beyond basic CRM through Excel (which can get a bit unwieldy depending on the size of your client/customer list), Microsoft does have it’s own CRM system, Dynamics 365 which is also a subscription-based platform with tools and services that you can customize based on your unique small business needs.
Microsoft 365 has given Excel a savvy and efficient boost, making it even easier for small businesses to use this one tool to manage all their financial needs. If you are interested in what Microsoft 365 has to offer your small business, Tech Masters can give you a free assessment to see if this platform is a good fit for you.
“Excel has an incredible selection of templates that make organizing your finances both easy and enjoyable.”
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