How to choose different months in an Excel report

I was asked how you add a slider to a report to choose the data shown for different months.

Monthly report showing the slider control to choose the month

This involves two excel devices:

1. A slider from Forms Control and
2. VLOOKUP function

Forms Control You may need to get the Developer Ribbon or Forms Toolbar turned on (see note below). Insert the slider onto your report. Right click on the slider and edit to reference the slider to a cell for the month value, and choose a minimum of 1 and maximum of 12 and increments of 1. If you have multiple sheets you can link the sliders to the same cell to update all pages

Report Table
Design the layout of your report and then use VLOOKUP to find the data from your datamine. I would suggest you label your data with months across the top and have the same field names on the left of your data and report. An example of the formula will look like this =VLOOKUP($B14,B5:N16,$C$2+1,0) – this looks up B14 (e.g. the name of the town in the above example) in the left column of the table B5 to N16, matches and returns the data from the month column $C$2+1 (offset by one column in the table) in the same row.

You can utilise the same basic logic for graphs and text references to return the name of the month etc, and also combine with the OFFSET function to make dynamic ranges to take your reports to a higher level.

If you have lots of data i.e. multiple years use CONCATENATE to combine the look up and logically named ranges for the data e.g FY10B and FY10A etc.

Follow good practice and always divide your spreadsheet into 3 parts:

a) The reports – Visual only
b) Calculation sheets – where the math or lookups are done
c) Data only sheets – where you enter or cut and paste the data in

Note re Form Controls.
– In Excel 2003 and earlier, these were available from the Forms toolbar.
– From Excel 2007, you need to specifically enable the Developer Ribbon.

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Top 20 business and UK travel websites

I am often asked what’s the cheapest way to travel, hold a one to one video conference, or what’s the most useful software on your Macbook? Having done this several times recently here is my personal list of the latest top 20.

Communications and Messaging

Powwownow Cheap non-subscription personal web and voice conferencing. Finalise a presentation or document easily with a colleague in another location by screen sharing. You pay only for the calls used so much cheaper for an occasional user. Cheap international dial in access codes.
Skype Cheap one to one calls and video. Great for international calls and also use with Powwownow.
LinkedIn Connect with other professionals and interest groups

UK Travel Planning

UK Travel Planner Door to door journey planner. Compare public transport and car journeys. It’s not always cheaper or quicker to use the car and save the planet!
Rail Travel Rail planner and live departure boards. Check before you leave to see if your train is late
Flights Planner Find that cheap flight. You can search for flights between countries rather than airport to airport and find other cheaper airports and travel dates to use.
Flights Live Status Check for flight delays and average punctuality statistics of that flight
ViaMichelin Plan your car journey and find good places to eat and stay
Traffic England Find out what traffic congestion is on major routes before you leave. Look at regional maps or entire motorways.
Transport for London Getting about London made easy. It’s often quicker to walk, use the bus, or now cycle.

Research and information tools

Wikipedia Quick access to knowledge
Google Still the best web search engine
Youtube Put your ideas and products and customer feedback on the web. Much cheaper than sales calls and printed brochures. Just use a simple HD camera and an editing software. I use a Canon IXUS 100 and Camtasia below.
eBay Check prices and 2nd hand office items

Essential MacBook business user software

Omnifocus Personal Task Management and GTD on a Mac
Camtasia Easy video editing for the web and Youtube
MindManager Mindmap your ideas to organise your information
Snagit Snagit is a utility that allows you to take still screenshots of documents and web sites and then save and paste
Omnigraffle Diagrams are worth a thousand words
Omnifocus for Iphone Take you task management on the road and associate tasks with nearby locations

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Product Portfolio Management

When reviewing a product portfolio always start from the perspective of why might customers start buying from you. Typically, a decision to change supplier is driven by one of three reasons; a) their previous supplier let them down or is not delivering solutions, b) you have something new and innovative, or finally c) simply the lowest price.

The four key elements in this product portfolio review are:

1. Understanding your customer needs – What do the customers really want even if they don’t know they need it yet? Spend time talking to both your internal and external sales staff and also talk directly to customers and influencers in the marketplace. Ask the “why” and “what if” questions to test ideas and challenge the accepted norm. Ask customers what their biggest problem or need is and what’s holding them back.
2. Innovation or first to market – What can you develop that’s new for the market, or what can can you bring first to the market place before your competitors. Sometimes you need to take risks, invest and develop the market later. As the pace setter you can define the market parameters and late comers will need to fight to catch up. Put another way, its often better to start off in the broad direction of travel rather than waiting to get the exact final route before starting and being left miles behind!
3. Value and ease of use – In these leaner times, customers have less technical support staff, so ensure ease of set up and use and also consider whole of life competitiveness of your products and how you can deliver value for money to your customers.
4. Finally map your products into the competitive dynamic both now and over a 2/3 year time horizon. From this you can debate and prioritise your own development spend/time to maximise returns, spot quick wins of new products, extra features or rebundling to provide solutions, and for less fruitful gaps consider addressing these by adding distribution of other company’s products or own label branding of their product.

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Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping software is a great tool for a busy executive, and it’s an essential tool in any growing business.

The key benefits are:

1 Pulling your thoughts together on a competitor/potential customer/supplier. Typically you only have sketchy knowledge to start with. You will need several sources to get more information and to identify gaps you need to address. A mind map is a great working document to pull this research together.
2 Meeting Minutes. If you don’t have the luxury of a PA and have to take minutes of a meeting at the same time as being actively involved, being able to draw discussions and actions together in the meeting is a great solution. You can add actions and responsibilities directly from the map. Use to circulate as a Map or as the basis of minutes.
3 Brainstorming. You can have a team brainstorming throwing out lots of new ideas, which you can record on screen and then connect and organise later.
4 Collaboration. Record and distribute a map as a working meeting document, incorporating hyper links and documents for the meeting.

There are several good products out there, and I use Mindjet Manager 8 for Mac, which is compatible with both MS Office and Mac applications, and is great for sharing

Mindjet Manager for Mac

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Creating a Full Year Forecast What If Table

Excel has a variety of useful functions which individually have limited use, but when combined they are enormously powerful.

In my video showing the reporting model for my imaginary company BAR Fruits Ltd, I showed how a monthly reporting model could be made more powerful through a What If table, to look at possible year end outcomes.

The 2 main variables effecting the full year forecast are sales and gross margin percentages for the rest of the year. These are converted to ASSUMPTION VARIABLES cell reference, and then used to flex the Budget for the remainder of the year, to give a revised full year forecast (Actual YTD plus Forecast and not Budget).

These VARIABLES are then used in a TWO-VARIABLE DATA TABLE. The FORMULA cell (top left cell of the table) is a CHOOSE function which give a range of alternative full year What If’s. These are returning to budget or other targets, from a predefined DROP DOWN FORMS LIST. Thus gives a useful cross table showing the full year impact of changes to the variables.

However, this table is very static, and not interactive. Excel’s GOAL SEEK can calculate a known output figure, where the input value is not known. For example, what % uplift in sales is required to get back to full year budget? This function is limited by being single action only.

However, by recording a MACRO, the standard table can be refined to give multiple GOAL SEEK ‘s across the diagonal either for required Sales at specified Margin Change Assumptions. e.g. if margins change by 1% what would the % sales change required to eliminate the year to date EBIT variance. You can then record a second MACRO for the required Margins and specified Sales change assumptions, and a Reset MACRO to return the figures to the base assumptions.

To finalise this, I have then added SPINNERS so that you can manually change the two VARIABLES, so that the effect of the changes can be shown on screen or projected for further discussion.

What if table showing to achieve year end budget

See a Mindmap click here and press + to expand narrative on any branch.

Experiment yourself, but the combination of a two-variable Data Table, with Choose, Macros and Goal Seek, to produce a dynamic What If table, is very powerful.

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Adding Interactive Text to Excel Reports

One of the major problems with monthly reporting, is keeping figures correctly aligned in Board Reports say in Word Format and the accounts say in Excel. Invariably last minute revisions are made to the accounts and not the Word document and also human transposition error creeps in.

In my video showing the reporting model for my imaginary company BAR Fruits Ltd, I made extensive use of interactive text within Excel, which both eliminates the chance of error, and shows the correct figures for each month chosen.

The procedure is quite straightforward, simply joining your text using & and formula or text within quote marks. I would recommend, that you transfer the calculations to a calculations sheet, and use named ranges wherever possible.

Experiment yourself, but the following Formulas, especially in combination, are very powerful:

LARGE returns the n-th largest value in a range i.e. LARGE(array,n) and SMALL the reverse. I have used this to find the highest, second highest and lowest regional sales, and then combined with VLOOKUP to return the Regions name in text.
RANK returns the relative position of a number in a list i.e. RANK(number,array,order). I have used this to find how a regions is ranked in terms of its gross margin performance relative to the other regions.
MAX returns the largest value in a range i.e.MAX(array) and MIN the opposite. I have combimed this with HLOOKUP to return the name of the best sales month for a region over the year found by MAX.
ROUND will help format the number for inclusion in the text i.e. ROUND(Number, number of digits)
IF allows you you to choose different narrative for above or below budget i.e. IF(test,value if true,value if false)
ISERROR allows you to eliminate values when the formula might return an error, and can be combined with IF, i.e.ISERROR(Number,value if an error)

The following is an example of interactive text which is linked to the underlying figures and automatically updates on a monthly basis or when you make any revision to the figures in the Bar Fruits reporting model.

Interactive reporting text

See a Mindmap click here and press + to expand narrative on any branch.

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Better and quicker management reporting

Just been on the ICAEW the Business Analytics and Reporting course run by the ICAEW and Singapore Institute.  This great three-day hands-on course given by the excellent Mr KK Tang is a must for anyone regularly working with Excel data. I just wish I had been on it ten years ago as it would have saved months of time!

It shows how to take repetitive tasks out of monthly data and how data and narrative in your reports can be interactive both for different periods and sensitivity analysis.  It uses all those Excel functions you know about, but shows how to apply them in a practical way. And its not just for financial reporting, anyone using sales and other data will benefit .

It has lot’s of practical uses for the private equity industry and investments and a great way of pulling information together from different sources.

Update February 10 – I was awarded a Business Analytics and Reporting MERIT

Give me a call to discuss or  Watch my own video here

Link to ICAEW trainingWatch a training ICAEW video here

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