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Discovering Interesting Things in Your Data Using the Quick Analysis
When I worked as a data analyst, I loved numbers and I loved Excel. But the
people for whom I worked were not numbers people. If I handed them a page
full of numbers, I could see their eyes glazing over. It was my goal to find
something interesting in that sheet of numbers and call attention to that one
bit of information.
Somehow, walking in to the VP of Sales ’ s corner office with news like,
“ Wow, Walmart is up 20% over last year, ” gave him a talking point. Rather
than just filing the report, he had a bit of news that might stick in his head
and come up again in a later conversation. Of course, in my head, that later
conversation would go something like, “ You should see the analysis that
our star employee Bill Jelen gave me today; Walmart is up 20%. We should
give Bill a big bonus for discovering that! ” In reality, the VP of Sales
likely took credit for the discovery on the next sales conference call. But
that ’ s OK. He was the guy who kept me employed, and as long as I kept giving
him a steady stream of sound bites, he would keep me off the RIF list.
Buried in Excel are many ways to find something interesting. It used to be
intimidating to figure out where to start. Home, Conditional Formatting? In-
sert, PivotTable? Insert, Chart? Insert, Sparklines? Formulas, AutoSum?
And after you get there, what do you do? I ’ ve written entire books about
charts. I ’ ve written entire books about pivot tables. Others have written
entire books about Excel formulas. The whole prospect is overwhelming.
How do you figure out where to start analyzing your data in Excel? You can
use the Quick Analysis tool (see Figure 2.20 ).