On the surface, Excel seems like a fairly simple program. People use it every day without delving too deep into the functions and formulas. They use it to organize their data, carry out simple calculations, and make lists.

What they don’t realise is that these actions barely scratch the surface of what Excel is truly capable of. Most employees would benefit from Excel training as the program is used almost on a daily basis by professionals and entrepreneurs who don’t realise just how much easier their Excel-related tasks would be if they understood different functions!

There are several powerful functions in Excel that can suit different professions and tasks. You should determine which will prove to be most useful to you. Here are some of the top Excel functions you should know:

1. =SUM()

This is one of the most basic functions in Excel, but it can make your life so much easier. This function will allow you to calculate the sum of different cells. For example, if you want to add the value of cell A4 with cell B4 in cell C4, all you need to do is type =SUM in the C4 cell, click the =SUM entry in the pop-up, and CTRL+Click on cells A4 and B4. This will automatically generate the sum of the two values.

While this might seem like a lot of steps for such a simple task, it helps if you have a big data set to calculate. You can select multiple cells for the function and calculate all of them at the same time with this function. Just CTRL+Click the cells you want to include. This function is immensely useful in normal day-to-day calculations and accounting. If you want to tally up your expenses and earnings for the day, this is the best and easiest way to do it.


This function works similar to the SUM function described above. You need to follow the same steps to implement it. So if you want to calculate the average of values from cell A2 to A16, all you need to do is type =AVERAGE(A2:A16)in the cell you want your result in and initiate the function. You’ll have the average of the numbers in an instant.

You can also use CTRL+Click on all the cells you want to calculate. This function will help you tally your average monthly earnings, profits, expenses, and other such values. This helps all professionals and business owners, so you should keep it in your mind.

3. =MAX() and =MIN()

You don’t need to manually scan all the data if you want to find the minimum or maximum value of the information. You can simply type =MAX (cell:cell) or =MIN (cell:cell) and you’ll get the maximum and minimum values regardless of the amount of data available on the sheet. This can save you a lot of time and it can be very useful in HR management, SEO and digital marketing, and other such activities. For example, if you want to find keywords with the lowest and the highest search volume, you can use the MAX and MIN function to search an entire list to find what you need it.

4. =IF()

This is one of the many logical functions provided by Excel. It allows you to assign function based on whether the logic is true or false. For example, if cell B4 is equal to 1, you can ask the formula to return yes; or if it’s not equal to 1, you can ask it to return no. This function is very useful in day-to-day life, especially for business owners. For example, when you do an inventory check, you can perform this function to see which items have dropped below the desirable value in the list.

So a cafe owner will immediately know if they’re running out of coffee seeds, sugar, spices, etc.There are a number of practical applications of these functions, which is why you should consider familiarising yourself if logic formulas in Excel. Most of them are just as useful as the IF function, and some are even more effective.

5. =MATCH ()

This function is used to locate a specific value or item in a large data set. For example, if you want to find a specific employee in a list of over 1,000 employees, you don’t need to search through the entire list manually. You can use the MATCH function and type in the employee name, the set of cells to search, and execute the formula. You’ll immediately get the value in the cell you typed your formula in. Almost all professionals and business owners can use this function in their daily tasks.

These are just some of the many functions and tools provided by Excel. You’ll find more useful hacks here. It’s a good idea to get some formal training in Excel to understand how it works and what its true capabilities are. You’ll be amazed by just how much more productive and efficient you are when you use Excel to its full potential.

Jordan James is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Activia Training, a UK-based training provider specialising in improving delegates’ workplace performance in business skills, management development and IT applications. Jordan is passionate about social media and customer service issues, and regularly blogs about these – and many other – topics on the Activia blog.

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