Top Excel Tips For Data Analysts

It’s an obvious, well-known fact that data and business go hand in hand. You can’t manage one without affecting the other. And whether you’re analyzing a client’s data or using your company’s data to make executive decisions, your tools have to be able to handle the tasks you perform with that information.

For instance, if youre a data analyst, most of the time you go through these stages of data analysis:

  1. Data Cleaning: Transform and rearrange the data in a way suitable for data analysis
  2. Data Analysis: Perform the necessary calculations to extract useful information
  3. Data Visualization: Use graphs or other type of visualization technique to show your results

While these may be impossible to handle manually, they’re perfectly manageable with Microsoft Excel. The application is advanced yet user friendly enough for the average user.

However, the tricky part you probably struggle with is knowing how to access and apply the right functionalities to your data. Well, it’s time to stop the struggle.

In this post, I’ll show you some Excel tips you can use at each of the data analysis stages.  Click through to jump to a specific section or tip.



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Why Accounting Firms Need A Document Management System

Performing Manual Calculations

For any financial services company, a client’s financial data is at the heart of its operations. As such, it becomes crucial for them to invest in a document management system and all the tools and processes it entails.

Underscoring this fact, CPA Practice Advisor outlines a number of pros and cons for having a paperless office with a document management system in place. As expected, the benefits presented by the pros outweigh, by far, the struggles imposed by the cons.

A document management system can drastically improve the workflow for accounting firms and clients alike.  

For one thing, it saves business costs on paperwork. Businesses and customers can reduce paper dependency, ultimately making documentation, transactions and records easily accessible online.

For another, it allows companies to automatically create an electronic audit trail that can keep documents accurate and in compliance with industry standards. Document workflows can be set up and incorporated into daily processes, making routine procedures easy for accountants.

However, one important caveat to keep in mind is that simply having a document management system in place doesn’t mean your workflow is fool-proof. Depending on the dynamics of your clientele and your document processing routine, your needs can shift and change from day to day. In fact, companies that incorporate document management systems can still struggle.

CFO Momentum
Momentum, a renowned financial and credit services  company, is one such example. They keenly  felt the affects of a document management system that quickly became inadequate. “Our working volumes grew exponentially and then came to a point where the manual process no longer made any sense,” Riaan Verbeek, CFO of Momentum explains.

Turning A Flawed Document Management System Around

As one of the leading services in the area of financial advising, insurance, investment and health, Momentum had client data already digitized in the PDF format. But there was a weakness in their document management system.

The company quickly found that they needed a dedicated PDF to Excel converter in order to improve, complete and streamline their document management system.  They needed to efficiently extract the vast amounts of PDF data to Excel and handle the data generated by the accounting department, as well.

Improving Document Management With Able2Extract

With this in mind, the company added Able2Extract to their document management system to fill that need.  A case study on Momentum shows that the company’s workflow did nothing but improve from the addition. You can read the full Momentum case study here. Successful highlights from the case study include:

  • Saved $30,000 annually
  • Saved 100% of their time on information assembly
  • No training required to start converting PDF to Excel
  • Experienced accurate data conversions

By making an adjustment in one troublesome area in their document management system, Momentum was able to start processing and handling their client data more effectively.  

Implementing a document management system can do wonders for the productivity of accounting firms. But that system must be flexible enough to change with your daily activity and routine.  

If your firm has a system already set up, make sure it has a tool for every step in the process. Tailor the workflow and make adjustments as needed. If the addition of one PDF converter can improve Momentum’s metrics, think of what it can do for your firm.


Get Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas From Google Search Trends

Still stuck for costume ideas this Halloween? Don’t worry. There’s still time.

You can always quickly pull out last year’s costume, but no one ever wants to be the same thing twice. Thus, you may be hitting Pinterest, YouTube or Google for some quick costume ideas that’ll look good and is easy to put together.

But if you really want to know what’s hot and what’s not in terms of costumes, skip the ordinary Google search for images and ideas. This year you may want to try Frightgeist.

FrightGeist Google Search

This is essentially Google Trends with a Halloween twist.  Frightgeist is packaged as a guide on what costumes people are searching for and looking up in the US.

Google Trends pulls the top 500 costume search results that are going on and then ranks and visualizes that data so you can quickly see, at a glance, what others are thinking of dressing up as. You’ll also get a couple of handy FYI snippets on the costume related trends.

You can search for costumes that are trending nationally or locally by region. So if you’re partying it up across town, dressing up for the costume contest at work or trick treating with relatives in another state, you can customize your costume idea accordingly.

When you search locally, you’ll get a map to visually select your area. You can then hover over your region to view the top search trend in that area. Click through and you’ll get a rundown of other popular searches for that region.

FrightGeist Local Search​

Search nationally and you’ll see what’s trending on a much bigger scale. These results will show you the top trends list across the entire country.

When using the search box, you can type in a costume idea or have Fightgeist do the all searching with the “Surprise Me” button. It will randomly pull up a costume search result for you. Clicking on the button once, I get Wonder Man from the Marvel universe, who ranks 475 on the national trends list.

So use the results to start brainstorming ideas. Or use the results to avoid the popular trends and stand out with a costume no one else has. There’s a convenient “Show Something Less Popular” button that shows up when you view details on a popular costume trend.

But if you like dressing up as everybody else—that’s cool too. The button will turn to “Show Something More Popular” if you’re viewing a low trending costume idea.

It’s interesting to see how everyday tools can be put to cool uses like finding a Halloween costume. So don’t miss out on this tool and some awesome ideas. Give it a try and see what costume trend catches your eye.


Exploring Document Management Needs For Insurance Companies

Document management in the insurance industry is important. Clients submit documents in a number of different methods and formats. As such, insurance companies need to be prepared to handle any type at any time, whether paper-based or electronic.

However, with PDF files being the de facto standard for document submission, insurance companies can expect to deal with high volumes of digitized data. This means being able to handle, process, and store those files.

Document Management Folders

Despite this obvious fact, some insurance companies are still hesitant to invest in document management software or individual tools. But for some companies, the onslaught of data and documents that need analysis is pushing them forwards, forcing them to explore their options., in fact, provides a timeless guide for companies who need to start thinking about it and make sound decisions in choosing a document management software tool.

How To Start Your Search For Document Management Tools

To start, there are a few main questions you should keep in mind: How easy is scanning? How are documents organized? Are documents editable?

These are essential questions to think about. For instance, as you get into analyzing those documents, editability will determine the tools you use and the work you perform.  Not only that, but it will determine the time spent on working to convert the data from one format to another.

Document organization determines how efficient you’ll be–how do you store, name and retrieve files later on? 

With paper-based workflows still largely in existence among clients and third parties, you can expect many setbacks before that data is even ready to be digitally processed and analyzed. How can you get them quickly into an electronic format?

Struggling With Extracting Data From PDF Documents

As a case in point, one insurance company, AgencyOne, struggled especially with making the data they received in PDF files editable. But dealing with PDF files without a specific tool in place affected their efficiency as an insurance company, an issue not uncommon in the industry.

“It was frustrating that I could find no way to speed up the process of data extraction or take real advantage of the import capabilities,” says Alexandra Smolen, Commission Specialist at AgencyOne. “It used to take me all week to get my work done auditing commission statements.”

AgencyOne Commission Specialist

Finding The Key To Improving Document Workflows

They struggled with PDF files and, later on, found success with data extraction using Able2Extract Professional. The benefits the company experienced include:

  • 3x increase in efficiency
  • Time previously wasted was converted into time spent on strategic activities
  • Affordable for company budget
  • Week-long data extraction tasks turned into a few days’ work
  • Increase in productivity led to an employee’s raise in wage

Without doubt, insurance companies need to start looking at document management solutions. As technology becomes more and more advanced, things such as electronic submissions will quickly become the basic standard. The key to tackling the new digital document age is to make sure your insurace company stays one step ahead of the game.  

Read the full AgencyOne case study here for inspiration on how you can get your own insurance company’s workflow up to speed.


How To Stay Focused And Energized At Work When You Don’t Feel Like It

How long can you last a typical work day? When you work 8 hour days at a computer, it can be easy to lose focus. The 9-5 grind can have you exhausted before your day is even over. With eye-strain, constant distraction and long periods of sitting, it’s no wonder the current work force is obsessed with improving the concept of the ideal work life.

From the 4-day work week to setting up a work-from-home day, the perfect work-life balance is the holy grail of working professionals and productivity gurus. While you can find tips on the most popular productivity tools, the best mobile apps or productivity tips to help in that area, sometimes what you need is guidance on improving more than just your workflow.

In fact, such tips can typically miss out on one common problem. People call it many things—zoning out, mentally fading, the afternoon slump, spacing out, whatever you call it, you’ve undoubtedly felt it multiple times during the week.  It’s not exactly what you’d call being distracted, but the results usually amount to the same thing: low productivity, higher risk of errors, and time wasted.

Though going for a cup of coffee is usually the number one solution, it’s time to get creative. There are other things that can help you get energized and back on track.

Play Mentally Challenging Games

One good way to keep your mental wheels oiled is to keep yourself intellectually challenged. Try going for popular brain teaser games and training apps or programs like Lumosity. There’s some debate about whether or not these scientifically work to raise your IQ, but what can’t be denied is that they can keep you mentally active.

A short session here and there on your lunch break can help you switch your frame of mind. Other similar services include Congnifit and Fitbrains.  If you prefer to do so on your mobile, you can also try brain teaser games like Sudoku, 2048 or Can You Escape.

Perform Rote Work And Unchallenging Tasks

This may sound counter-intuitive, but this tip will actually give you that much needed momentum during your low energy times. These tasks can be anything–deleting your junk mail, cleaning off your desk or organizing your filing cabinet (or washing dishes if you work from home).

Messy Desk Clutter

A short study has shown that shifting focus to unchallenging work can actually help to boost your mood. The psychology behind this is that when you complete a task, you gain a sense of accomplishment. This can give you the drive needed to build yourself up to a more focused state going into another task.

Create a to-do list on the side of necessary rote tasks you can turn to when needed. This way you’re still taking care of something that needs to get done and not wasting time.

Use Notifications, To-Do Lists, and Timers

There’s nothing like having deadlines to keep you on your toes. Holding yourself accountable when things get slow and sluggish at work can be an effective method to try on yourself. When we’re working against the elements, be it time or resources, we tend to work with more focus to get the job done.

Creating To Do List

For this, set up notifications, create short yet manageable to-do lists and even use the trusted go-to timer strategy (think Pomodoro technique). Lighting a fire under a task will push you to work with more energy, giving you a second wind.

Schedule In De-Stressing Time Online

Unwinding is a huge part of staying alert and keeping your mind fresh. If you find yourself getting stressed out or tired from long periods of intense focus, take a mental break. As little as 15 minutes can mean a world of difference to your productivity.

We covered a few ways to reduce your stress online before. From customizing your musical mood to playing PacMan online, you’re sure to find one tip that’ll do the trick.

Change Your Location,  Your Workspace Or Your Workstation

Another thing you can try is to change your physical setting. Your surroundings can have an effect on your mental state day after day… after day. This includes disruptive noise from neighbouring cubicles, low lighting, and just being in the same drab, dull setting—factors that can elevate or drop your energy levels significantly.

Mobile Workstation

Try and make the modern day office work for you by rearranging your workspace, working in a different area (if you work on a mobile device), decorating your desk or even trade in your PC for a laptop if you can. Your work space matters and a quick switch can turn things around instantly.

We can’t be on the ball at the computer for 8 hours straight, 7 days in a row, on command. Hopefully, these can help give you that jump start you need when you’re drained, low on energy, and losing focus.  Everyone is different, so let us know what works for you.