Go into any office in the country. No, really, go on, they won't mind. Just tell them I sent you. I'd gladly wager that any computer in whichever office you choose has Microsoft Excel on it. It's ubiquitous, and has been for a very many years, and it has long since become a byword for spreadsheets of all kinds.

Yes, any of those computers will have Excel. Yet having is not the same as using is not the same as using properly. An awful lot of people won't be getting very much out of the software, and many won't even be getting anything from it, trying to force a less appropriate application - such as Access - to fit their needs instead. And although it's so little realised, the vast range of tools that Excel has to offer can make a genuine difference to any company. Even the one whose office you just wandered into, and whose security are eyeing you warily.

Perhaps the greatest benefits Excel has to offer are found within its analytical tools. After all, every business has vital numerical data - incomes and expenditures, profits and losses, sales figures, overheads, market shares, and so on and so forth - and if you store this information in an Excel spreadsheet, the software can show you much more than just the raw numbers.

Those numbers are much easier to understand visually, and any sheet of data can be transformed into a chart. Of course, it has to be the right kind of chart to show the data most clearly and comprehensibly - and Excel has all manner of bar, line, pie, area, and scatter charts, 2D or 3D, to ensure that your information is presented just how you need it to be.

But you don't even have to go into a chart to find out essential trends and facts - thanks to conditional formatting and Sparklines (small, simple charts inserted into the data sheet to illustrate change), important developments in your figures can be automatically highlighted. And whatever tools you choose to express your vital information, they can be brought together on a dashboard, allowing you - or whoever you need to share the understanding with - to access that information immediately and from any platform.

So, why is it not being used properly? Why are there so many organisations that have the analytical power of Excel in their offices, but do not take advantage of it? Put like that, it seems absurd, akin to driving a car only in second gear. Quite simply, however, it can be blamed on a lack of understanding. Many users might not even know that these tools exist. Of those that do, a good number won't know why they're there, what they can do for the user and the business. And even amongst those who are aware of what the software has to offer, there will be many who don't feel at all confident in using it.

Can this be addressed? Of course it can. Regardless of what software a company uses, whether it's Excel or anything else, there's always a lot to be gained from ensuring that staff know how to use it. Yet so many businesses don't see this as a priority; it would be unimaginable for, say, an engineering company not to worry about whether or not its employees know how to use their physical tools, but when it comes to software it's all too common for employers not to be concerned about training or understanding.

Perhaps an individual could do with formal training, perhaps some time to explore the software themselves, perhaps they could benefit from having someone looking over their shoulder and pointing them in the right direction, perhaps from having an expert on the other end of a phone line, perhaps from being given a quick one-to-one session to explain what's available - there are many ways to ensure that employees are making the most out of Excel, and that the company is getting the best possible advantage from these skills.

Every manager faced with this issue can decide what's most appropriate for their own organisation or department - but having done so, it's essential to act upon this decision. Let staff develop the skills they need, and there's not a company in the country who wouldn't benefit. Even the company into whose office I told you to wander.