One of my friends recently shared with me a great TED Talk by Terry Moore about how to tie your shoes more effectively. I initially thought this was an odd topic for such an intellectual group, until I realized that re-learning to tie one’s shoes wasn’t necessarily the point. The moral of the story is that even when you think you’ve got everything figured out, there is always some way to improve – to do things a little more efficiently or effectively.
Along this same line, I wanted to share with you a few ways you can interact with and utilize some of the data you probably review and work with on a daily basis. Many of us have been accustomed to working with databases through one form of software or another. We use this data to give us information about the behavior of our clients and members and even to reach out to them. Below I have listed three Microsoft Office functions you can use to quickly and easily manipulate this data to work for you.
Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook – Mail Merge
Probably my favorite utility when reaching out to groups via postal or email. You can easily set up a template for emails, letters, or mailing labels and then populate them using data from your spreadsheet. Those 60 personal emails that need to go out to your VIPs outside of the group mail list? Using mail merge, you can send out individual emails in about 10 minutes from set-up to send time.
Microsoft Excel – V Lookup
This functionality allows you to compare data from separate worksheets. This is especially useful in instances where you have to pull data from two different reports, but you need to find connections between the two sets. For instance, you may be able to pull a list of item codes and their descriptions in one sheet and a list of companies who purchased those item codes in another. By doing a VLookup, you can combine that data and generate a list showing you company names and the descriptions of the items they purchased, rather than having to refer back to the key.
Microsoft – Pivot Tables
Pivot Tables allow you to quickly see a snapshot of your data sets so you can analyze trends. You can probably easily pull a financial report telling you what orders have been placed over a given time period, with each item taking a row. However, with use of pivot tables, you can quickly see a summary of what your hot sellers were in a given week, month, or year.
Microsoft Office provides great tutorials and explanations on each of these functions on their help site, which can help you start incorporating these functions into your work flow. A quick Google search will also yield very valuable hands-on practice exercises, but I always prefer to start with the source, since they are the experts on their software. It may take a little trial and error to become acclimated to these utilities at first, but the long term pay-off in productivity is well worth the effort.