The spreadsheet component of Microsoft's Office productivity package, Excel has a number of applications for small business management. With a little creativity and by tapping into some of Excel's advanced tools, you can turn your spreadsheets into databases for customer data, employee scheduling worksheets, basic financial records and even a comprehensive tool for recording sales and projecting future income for business planning.

Customer Data

With databases, you have to determine the types of data you want to store from the very beginning and structural changes are often hard to make. Unlike a database, Excel allows you to store customer data in a very flexible format. You can store data such as names and contact details and create additional columns for new types of data as your business needs change. You can also sort data by any characteristic to isolate customers who live in a certain area or have certain purchasing habits.

Basic Accounting and Financials

Although comprehensive tax preparation and accounting programs have added features that allow you to more closely monitor your company's financials and even prepare tax forms, Excel's easy-to-use data entry tools make it a great choice for month-to-month accounting. You can create a double entry ledger to record income and expenses, enter sales data, manage inventory, track your budget and even perform calculations to determine totals and percentages. These spreadsheets can be turned over to your accountant to simplify more advanced tax preparation and accounting.

Employee Scheduling

Excel helps businesses keep track of employee work hours with spreadsheets separated into shifts. These spreadsheets can be color-coded by employee for easier interpretation and easily edited to include new employees or scheduling changes. To manage resources such as conference rooms, you can also create a schedule with shifts, share the file with the whole office and ask employees to write their name in a slot to reserve the resource at a given time.

Sales and Projections

Beyond record-keeping, Excel allows businesses to organize data into charts and graphs for business reports or presentations. With a number of chart options -- including pie charts, bar charts and line graphs -- data can quickly be organized into a visual representation of sales changes or percentages. Excel can even integrate a regression analysis into a line graph -- added simply by selecting "Add Trendline" from the Chart menu for a line graph -- to predict future developments based on your current data.