Spreadsheets are used in varied ways within business contexts. In general, spreadsheets store data sets, but they also provide a range of utilities to manage and process the data sets. This makes them particularly useful to businesses. Through preset and user-defined formulas, spreadsheets can perform mathematical, statistical, financial and organizational transformations on sets of data. Spreadsheets help to present data in organized ways and to inform future planning decisions. Businesses use spreadsheets in ways that are suited to their own services, but these uses tend to fall into a few general categories.

Storing Data

The primary purpose of a spreadsheet is to store data in a structured way. Data values are entered into cells in a worksheet. These data values can be formatted using various categories of data types, including numerical and textual types. The cells in a worksheet can refer to other cells, using the location of a cell within the rows and columns in the sheet. Individual parts of a worksheet can be contained within tables, with a single worksheet potentially holding a range of information sets. Spreadsheet programs such as Excel provide templates for common business tasks, such as expenses recording.

Analyzing Data

Once a spreadsheet has some data values in it, you can perform various analytical tasks on this data. This includes mathematical functions, such as adding or counting values. By entering a formula or choosing from one of many preset functions, you can analyze your data sets. This allows business users to sort data, filter it and process it. For financial data, you can calculate profits and losses. In a general sense, spreadsheet formulas and functions allow you to carry out performance measurements for many aspects of your business.


Spreadsheet applications such as Excel include tools for data visualization. You can take an existing data set within a spreadsheet and present it within a chart, with various types of graph and chart options to choose from. The resulting charts let business managers gain insight into the data by presenting it in graphical ways. These charts can also be used in corporate contexts, such as within presentations. You can manually control all aspects of a chart display, including chart type, labeling and colors. You can also print spreadsheet tables and charts for use within reports and other publications.

Future Planning

Spreadsheets facilitate future planning in two ways. First, being able to analyze and visualize data gives you an insight into how well your business is currently performing, highlighting areas for growth or reconsideration. Second, you can use a spreadsheet to calculate the potential effects of changes to your business model. For example, if you use existing information together with a potential change, such as a sales fluctuation in a retail context, you can determine the impact of this change. Spreadsheets also use conditional formulas, in which you can carry out conditional tests on data values, filtering or manipulating the values as a result of these tests.