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Using Excel to create business hierarchy charts

Using Excel to create business hierarchy charts

Although Excel isn’t the most obvious choice for creating charts outside graphs that feed of Excel data, the use of SmartArt Graphics and drawing tools makes this very possible.  Being able to create a business hierarchy chart or organisational chart in Excel can be useful for various reasons and here is how you can use its tools to do just that.


SmartArt Graphics

The SmartArt Graphics tool allows you to insert a visual representation of information and/or ideas as opposed to data from your Excel workbook.  There are a range of designs to choose from all of which are customisable in terms of colour and content.  You can also in some cases, amend its layout.   Although most of the options include text, there are some designs that allow you to enhance your diagrams with images.


The different visual representations are categorised but the best one to go to in order to create a business organisational chart is the Hierarchy category.  The designs in this category have been created with information like organisational charts and decision trees in mind.


Once you have chosen your design, you can customise its content using the Task Pane.  This is a window that pops up on the side of your diagram and is useful for entering information but also specifying what ‘level’ it should be on – you can ‘Promote’ or ‘Demote’.  You can change the design at anytime without affecting the information you have inserted but, if the design doesn’t support the information or levels of information you have inserted, it will display a red cross next to it on the Text Pane.


In addition to customising content, you can customise the diagram’s appearance either by exploring the different styles, colours or effects.


Drawing the Hierarchy Chart

Instead of using preset diagrams, you can create your own structures.  Although this is more time consuming than using SmartArt Graphics, it does give you complete control of how your chart looks.  By clicking on the Insert tab on the Ribbon, you can create your own chart by using the ‘Shapes’ option in the Illustrations group.


Here you have a range of shapes to choose from and by right clicking on the created shape and selecting ‘Edit text’ you can insert your content.  Using the line or arrow tools as connectors you can completely customise what you want your chart to look like if the SmartArt Graphics do not offer exactly what you need.


As you can see, Excel offers almost the same graphical tools as many other applications in the Office suite that may more naturally be selected.  You would need to use PowerPoint if you wanted any of your graphics to be animated but other than that, the tools mentioned are pretty much the same.


Bio – Hollie Miller

Hollie provides Microsoft Excel training for Acuity Training. In her spare time she loves to go to the gym and dress making.



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