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The Possibilities of Excel Automation

Time To Level Up Your Excel Usage

Excel Automation

Pivot tables, graphs and calculations are all familiar territory with Microsoft Excel. But there's a whole world of possibilities beyond those basics! Even back in its earliest days, Excel was all about making life easier by simple cells and rules automating those tedious, repetitive, data-correcting tasks. Fast forward to today and Excel's automation potential is stronger than ever. We're here to guide you through tapping into its full potential.

In this Excel automation guide, we cover:

  • Who is using Excel automation?
  • What kind of Excel tasks can be automated?
  • The benefits of Excel automation.
  • What automation tools can you use beyond Excel?

What is Excel automation?

Before we jump in, let’s establish our understanding of Excel automation. Many of us have probably encountered the basics:

  • The use of Formulas like SUM, AVERAGE, IF, VLOOKUP, etc.
  • Conditional Formatting to change how cells look depending on their content. Think: a red cell is a negative number.
  • Charts that dynamically update as data in tables change.
  • Data import functions that automatically extract data from other sources and export it into Excel to use its features.

While these functions already make working with data easier, Excel automation has far greater potential when it can be linked with intelligent automation (IA) solutions. That’s because getting Excel automations to work as you’d like is a steep learning curve. Many workers are spending too much valuable time trying to figure it all out when they don’t need to.

When we add IA solutions, such as robotic process automation (RPA), Excel automation can go much faster. Workers don’t need to be stuck learning how to label chart titles, manually connect their data to Excel or coding with VBA (more on that later). Instead, digital workers can take over these repetitive tasks and human workers can focus on getting the insights from their data to drive decisions and innovation.

Who Is Using Excel Automation?

Who Is Using Excel Automation?

Excel is not hard to find in many businesses and industries. As a well-known spreadsheet tool, it has broadly been deployed for several applications. What you probably might find interesting is how these industries are using automation with Excel:

Financial Services

There’s a lot of data stored in Excel spreadsheets in financial services, including portfolios, transactions, customer information, etc. Automating this data helps organizations ensure data version control, data validation and reconciliation, and analysis.

Digital workers can extract key data points, put them into charts and export them for financial employees to use. Employees can then spend more time understanding the data and making informed decisions. And save time matching Excel data or manually creating the charts they require.

PTT Group completes month-end reports 85% faster with IA

PTT Group was able to deploy digital workers to transform their financial processes. Instead of manual work, digital workers pull data from multiple Excel spreadsheets and consolidate all relevant data into one spreadsheet.

Read the Case Study

Healthcare

Some examples of healthcare data in Excel sheets include patient billing, insurance information, appointment scheduling and imaging records. Automation software solutions here streamline many of these general administrative processes.

For example, billing reconciliation and claims processing. Healthcare providers no longer need to worry about manually reconciling data from spreadsheets, emails and phone calls – with automation, digital workers can validate all the information and ensure accuracy.

Manufacturing

Automating Excel in manufacturing mainly looks at inventory tracking, production scheduling and cost analysis. Manufacturers often integrate data from various sources and systems to produce key insights that inform their next strategies.

While some employees might copy and paste this data into Excel, Excel automation can do it in real time, automatically and accurately — so that employees only need to focus on the insights.

Public Sector

Public sector organizations leverage Excel for various critical functions, including budgeting support, census surveys, compliance records, and project management data. Most of the time, this data is collected, populated, organized and analyzed manually in Excel — with lots of red tape further slowing down the process.

Excel automation can help speed up this process. Digital workers can automatically import data from various sources into Excel, share files, help retain version control and create built-in governance checks to minimize the risk of errors and inaccuracies.

What Kind of Excel Tasks Can be Automated?

We’ve touched on a few tasks that automation can help with; here are a few more examples:

  • Data entry
  • Data import
  • Data cleaning
  • Data formatting
  • Formulas and function creation
  • Report and dashboard generation
  • Data visualization
  • Copying and pasting between worksheets or workbooks
  • Sorting and filtering
  • Integration with other applications and systems
  • Version control
  • Access permissions
  • Data validation

What Are the Benefits of Automating Excel?

The Benefits of Excel Automation

Besides making Excel easier to use, the benefits of Excel automation include:

  • Increased efficiency: Automation streamlines repetitive tasks as digital workers handle manual data entry, formatting and analysis of Excel spreadsheets — saving time and effort.
  • Improved accuracy: Working from set rules, digital workers minimize human errors and inconsistencies in data processing and analysis. This includes manual data entry errors, missing data points, email address duplications, etc.
  • Enhanced productivity: As digital workers handle mundane, repetitive tasks, automation allows human employees to have a better experience with work, improving their motivation and productivity.
  • Faster decision-making: Digital workers work in real-time, which means Excel data validations, migrations and consolidations can also happen almost immediately. Decision-makers can make strategic choices based on accurate and up-to-date information.
  • Scalability: Automated Excel processes can handle large volumes of data and repetitive tasks with ease. Organizations don’t need to hire extra staff. Instead, they can either scale up or down their digital workforce to handle increased workloads without significant resources.
  • Customization: You can set digital workers’ rules and parameters to work with. With added intelligence, Excel automation allows users to create customized solutions tailored to their specific needs, enabling them to address unique challenges and requirements effectively.
  • Integration: Digital workers don’t only automate Excel functions, but they can also work across other applications and systems, enabling seamless data exchange and workflow integration. For example, they can take Excel data and add it into your customer relationship management (CRM) system.

How Can You Automate Excel?

How to Automate Excel

There are two solutions you can implement to automate Microsoft Excel. You can either use Excel’s own functions (limited) or you can deploy an external automated solution (limitless).

Tools you can use to automate Excel

To use Excel’s own functions, you’ll need to learn about visual basic for application (VBA) codes and Excel macros. This is the steep learning curve we mentioned earlier in this guide.

Macros

A macro records clicks and other actions on Excel. If you have a repeated task, you can set your macro recorder to automate that by seeing how you do it. For example, format cells with bold text. Macros are found in the Developer tab of Excel, which you’ll need to add.

VBA script

VBA scripts are a little more complex as it’s the programming language behind Excel. You can create scripts to automate more complex actions, but you might need some help from a developer here.

So, what if you want to automate both simple and repetitive tasks on Excel without the use of complex code or developer support? This is where we recommend an IA solution.

IA and RPA

IA solutions, like RPA, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and more can be added to Excel to make automating Excel tasks easier. Many IA solutions are also now user-friendly, with low- and no-code options so you don’t need to bother your developers or learn complex code!

For instance, you can effortlessly generate detailed sales reports by leveraging AI algorithms to analyze vast datasets within Excel or automatically update inventory levels across multiple spreadsheets using RPA bots. IA solutions not only facilitate automating Excel tasks but also enable seamless transferring of data across your workflows and processes.

Are Excel macros the same as automating with RPA or IA?

Before we wrap up, this is a common question when we mention Excel automation that needs addressing. The answer is no.

Macros comes from Excel and Microsoft Office suite. Meaning, you’ll only be able to create automations that are limited within that software package.

RPA or IA allows you to automate across different software and tools as it can be integrated into them.

Do More With Automation

If you’re handling Excel spreadsheets in your regular day-to-day, it might be worth streamlining some of the processes. The best and most developed solution is to implement automation, like deploying an SS&C Blue Prism digital workforce.

Not only can you automate Excel tasks like logging form submissions, sending team members updates and syncing data, but it also opens the door to other automation opportunities across your workflow, processes and wider business operations.

Get in contact with us to learn more about our suite of intelligent automation products for Excel, and beyond.