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Create Communication Impact in Your Business Report with Excel

Singapore Management University (SMU) recently published in The Straits Times the results of a customer satisfaction survey which indexes the customer satisfaction levels of different companies and different industries. A copy of the news report is presented below. Consider this, if you only have 5 minutes to digest the figures in the report, what conclusions would you be able to derive?

If you ask me, I would present the results differently, such that they communicate the key messages with maximum impact in those 5 minutes. The same criteria can be applied when you are preparing a business report for your management. It is important that you prepare a business report that allows your manager(s) to draw the necessary conclusions in the quickest time. To show you what I mean, I have compiled the customer satisfaction indexes from the Straits Times report using Excel and present them in this report with a table and 3 charts. The first table and chart are as follows:

Contrary to what many business managers would expect, Excel CAN create impactful professional looking charts. You DON'T have to use macros. All you need is some in-depth knowledge of Excel functions, formulas, and a few tricks, and the following can happen:

  • You don't have to be limited to conventional Excel colours. Take a look at those charts I have created, you will notice that they are not found on the conventional Excel colour palette.

  • You can make Excel tables colour your results automatically using pre-defined conditions. For instance, the indexes in the shown report are compared with the "national average" for this year and last year, with green colour indicating that the industry customer satisfaction index is "higher than 2007 national average", yellow colour indicating "above 2008 national average but lower than 2007 national average" and red colour indicating "below 2008 national average".

  • You can let your managers navigate through your report easily. In this report I am demonstrating, 3 buttons have been provided to help with the navigation of the 3 charts created.

  • You can present other value-added information with the charts. As you can see, in my report, the charts can be ranked from the best to the worst. There is no need to do any manual ranking for presentation.

  • You can include a useful benchmark such that the results are segmented based on the selected criteria. For instance, in this report, we can easily separate and sieve out those companies that are performing above the industry average for presentation.

Here is what Raul from Philippines say about report:

Thanks for sharing the Business report with Excel. It was an eye opener for me that such report can be prepared using Excel. The presentation is clean and logical that enhance quick understanding of the facts through graph or figures in a the form of bar charts. I am wondering how it was done it only shows my limited knowledge regarding Excel. Was it done with excel visual basic programming? Was it prepared by using just the Excel functions and formulas and wizards? It is really worthwhile learning how to prepare such report for the appreciation of management.

My answer to Raul's questions:

The report is prepared using existing Excel functions, formulas and wizards that are readily available to all Excel users. No macro or VBA programming is required for this report.

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