Looking up when the data won’t cooperate (case study)
Occasionally we deal with data that is so uncooperative that we might as well give up and go back to calculators & ledger books.
Recently I found myself in such a situation and learned something new.
Introducing … data that won’t play nice
Drum roll please. Here is a dataset that I got from somewhere.
The problem – build a lookup formula
And the problem. Oh, simple. Write a lookup formula to find how many customer walkins we have on any given day.
But how?
After wrestling with a few variations of VLOOKUP, INDEX, MATCH, OFFSET… I found the right formula for this occasion.
SUMIFS Formula
That’s right, the good old (well, its just 7 years old, born in 2007 Excel) is the one that works in this situation.
Assuming our data is in the range:
 B4:H15
 Even rows (4,6,8…14) containing date
 Odd rows (5,7,9…) containing customer walkins
 And lookup date is in L5
We can use this SUMIFS formula:
=SUMIFS(B5:H15,B4:H14,L5)
to find out how many customers walked in to the store on the lookup date.
How does this formula work?
See this illustration.
Since SUMIFS (and SUMIF too) formula works in 2D, our formula works elegantly.
Any caveats?
There are a couple of problems with this formula.
 It works for looking up numbers only
 It doesn’t work if any of the numbers are same as dates we are looking up. For example 15th October 2014 is 41927, so we have a data point that is also 41927, then our SUMIFS result would be wrong.
A better formula?
If you want a formula that works with any type of data, then of course we can come up with one.
That is your home work.
Go ahead and figure it out and share your magic potions in the comments.
Here is a clue: If we cant go somewhere directly, we can go indirectly, if we know the address.
Download Example Workbook
Click here to download the example workbook. Examine the formula in cell L6 to understand how this works.
How do you deal with such data?
Badly shaped data is everywhere. Not a week goes by when I don’t come across poorly structured data. Thanks to Excel, I can alter the shape of almost any data. My favorite techniques are – text import, power query, formulas, pivot tables, remove duplicates & go to special.
What about you? How do you deal with poorly structured data? What tools do you deploy to alter the fitness levels of your data? Please share your thoughts and tips in comments.
Don’t forget about the formula challenge.
Excel not cooperating? Its time you tamed it
Data that is messy, bosses with high expectations, coffee machines that don’t work are everywhere. Fortunately Excel can fix 2 of those 3 problems. (Sorry folks, there is no fixCoffeeMachine() macro, yet.)
Learn a few Excel tricks & concepts and you could be on your way to taming messy data & demanding bosses. Start with these:
Hello Awesome...
My name is Chandoo. Thanks for dropping by. My mission is to make you awesome in Excel & your work. I live in Wellington, New Zealand. When I am not F9ing my formulas, I cycle, cook or play lego with my kids. Know more about me.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Visit Excel for Beginner or Advanced Excel pages to learn more or join my online video class to master Excel.
Thank you and see you around.

Leave a Reply
« What would you wear to an Excel themed Halloween party?  Ready to use Excel Dashboard Templates – Official Trailer » 
37 Responses to “Looking up when the data won’t cooperate (case study)”
Nice Trick.. Clever use of cell references
Here is a formula I tried to create:
=SUMPRODUCT(((NOT(ISERROR(SEARCH(L5,B4:H14))))*1),(B5:H15))
It takes care of Caveat #1 (can handle text), but Caveat #2 remains.
In situations like this, I will often use VBA to restructure the data (2 columns: dates and values) on to a new worksheet. I can then use this 'clean' source for data analysis (formula or pivot table).
=SUMPRODUCT(((NOT(ISERROR(SEARCH(L5,B4:H14))))*1),(B5:H15)) and complex formulae in general are all very well but when you come back to them in a few weeks / months time, it is not at all easy to see what they do and what the limitations are.
Hi Chandoo,
I had used this type of cell ref. various times while calculating average.
But for the situation here try below formula . Note this is an array formula and must be confirmed with Ctrl+Shift+Enter.
=SMALL(IF(MMULT((L5=B4:H14)*IF(ISNUMBER(B5:H15),B5:H15),{1;1;1;1;1;1;1}),MMULT((L5=B4:H14)*IF(ISNUMBER(B5:H15),B5:H15),{1;1;1;1;1;1;1})),1)
Regards,
Hi, I think Using SEARCH in here will create a problem say there is a text like SUN and another text SUNLIGHT both result will be added by SUMPRODUCT.
Regards,
Array option.
=SUM(IF(MOD(ROW(B4:B14),2)=MOD(ROW(B4),2),IF(B4:H14=L5,B5:H15)))
Regards
@Elias,
Nice approach.
Although not requested  the formula I suggested closes all possibilities.
Criteria: _____ Value to retrieve:
Date__________ Numeric
Date__________Textual
Textual________Numeric
Textual________Textual
While your formula copes with only the 3 first combinations.
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answer” – Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (20092015)
ISRAEL
@Michael,
Sorry but I don’t understand your point. I believe the challenge was to return the summary of a given date. What is your really volatile formula doing that mine is not?
Regards
@Elias,
I didn't say that the challenge differs from what you just mentioned/aimed to nor that your formula doesn't provide the requested result.
Please read my previous comment again and focus on the last combination (TEXT / TEXT).
I, myself, always try to provide a global Formula that is capable to handle all sorts of data.
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answer” – Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (20092015)
ISRAEL
@Michael,
I see your point, but you are missing the below points if you are trying to cover all sorts of data.
What happened if the lookup value does not exist?
Do you want the first, second, summary, concatenation of the values if the look value is repeated?
See they are too many possibilities to be cover with just one formula.
Regards
1) The range: B4:H15 was named: RNG.
2) The following Array Formula was "retrieved from my sleeve" and I hope it can be shorten.
3) The formula seems to take care of BOTH(!) caveats.

=OFFSET(INDIRECT(ADDRESS(SMALL(IF(RNG=L5,ROW(RNG),""),1),MOD(SMALL(IF(RNG=L5,(ROW(RNG))+COLUMN(RNG)/10),1),1)*10)),1,)

Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answer” – Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (20092015)
ISRAEL
@Michael,
Check what happened with your result if you type 41927 in D5.
Regards
Correct. Didn't predict that.
Will find time to work something out.
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answer” – Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (20092015)
ISRAEL
@Elias,
Let's hope the following Array Formula "closes all open doors".
Again  it has nothing to do with your formula which works fine as long as the 3 first mentioned combinations are concerned.

=INDEX(RNG,LARGE(IF(RNG=L5,MOD(ROW(RNG)1,2)*(ROW(RNG)),""),1)2,(MOD(SMALL(IF(RNG=L5,(ROW(RNG))+COLUMN(RNG)/10),1),1)*10)1)

Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answer” – Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (20092015)
ISRAEL
Ok, if you insist. The following will cover all the scenarios you listed. However, I’ll never recommend/use such of formula.
Defined names:
rDat = $B$4:$H$15
rRow =ROW(rDat)MIN(ROW(rDat))+1
rCol =COLUMN(rDat)MIN(COLUMN(rDat))+1
rInc =MOD(rRow,2)=MOD(MIN(rRow),2)
L6=INDEX(rDat,MAX(IF(rInc,IF(rDat=L5,rRow)))+1,MAX(IF(rInc,IF(rDat=L5,rCol))))
Array Enter
Regards
@Michael,
unfortunately, your array formula still seems to return wrong results (eg 3Nov).
If data are organized like in the example, ie. looks like a calendar, the INDEX formula seems quite simple:
=INDEX($B$4:$H$15,ROUNDDOWN((L5B4)/7,0)*2+2,MOD((L5B4),7)+1)
Yours is effectively the same as what I just came up with, and I believe this is the optimal answer to this particular problem.
My solution, before I saw yours:
=OFFSET(B5,QUOTIENT(L5B4,7)*2,MOD(L5B4,7))
OFFSET will work for an arbitrary list size, but INDEX might be easier to read.
QUOTIENT does the round and division in a single step.
If there's an improvement over Elias's solution then I for one can't see it.
Perhaps a nonCSE version which would also mean that only two references (B4:H14 and B5:H15), as opposed to three (B4, B4:B14 and and B5:H15), would require manually amending should the data range change, i.e.:
=SUMPRODUCT((ISEVEN(ROW(B4:H14)MIN(ROW(B4:H14)))*(B4:H14=L5)*B5:H15))
I suppose we could make it a single, uniform range reference:
=SUMPRODUCT((ISEVEN(ROW(B4:H14)MIN(ROW(B4:H14)))*(B4:H14=L5)*OFFSET(B4:H14,1,,,)))
which might be more appropriate should we e.g. wish to use a Defined Name for our range, i.e.:
=SUMPRODUCT((ISEVEN(ROW(Rng)MIN(ROW(Rng)))*(Rng=L5)*OFFSET(Rng,1,,,)))
though whether that compensates for the extra, volatile function call is something to be debated.
Regards
I have tried something and then my Excel workbooks got shut down. Maybe that was too much?
Anyway here is what I've tried:
=SUMPRODUCT(INDEX(B5:H15;IF(ISEVEN(ROW(B5:H15));ROW(B5:B15)ROW(B5)+1);{1\2\3\4\5\6\7}))
Guess that was wrong? Would this approach work anyway?
Looking forward to learn something from you Excel Experts.
Sorry, I haven't took notice of XOR LX's answer. I guess that's kind of what I was looking for.
@Michael Avidan
As it stands that is not a very rigorous construction.
You say "I, myself, always try to provide a global Formula that is capable to handle all sorts of data", which is a wonderful philosophy, but isn't it at least as important that we ensure that our formulas are independent of the row and column references of the data range in question, so that, should that range change, we do not have to rework our solution?
What happens with your formula, for example, if RNG is instead relocated one row down, from B4:H15 to B5:H16?
When a formula is reliant upon the addition/subtraction of certain constants within the formula, which themselves are necessarily dependent upon the specific rows/columns in which the data lies at any given time (e.g. the 1 in MOD(ROW(RNG)1,2)), then that formula is not a very flexible one.
Hence the reason for my choice of a slightly longer construction:
ROW(B4:H14)MIN(ROW(B4:H14))
which ensures that this part of the calculation is not dependent upon the precise location of the data range within the worksheet, and so will give correct answers even if that range is relocated.
Regards
{=OFFSET(B4,MAX((B4:H15=L5)*ISODD(ROW(1:12))*ROW(1:12)),MAX((B4:H15=L5)*ISODD(ROW(1:12))*COLUMN(A:G))1)}
Nonarray formula:
=INDEX(B4:H15,SUMPRODUCT((B4:H15=L5)*(ROW(B4:H15)ROW(B4)+1)*ISODD(ROW(B4:H15)ROW(B4)+1))+1,SUMPRODUCT((B4:H15=L5)*(COLUMN(B4:H15)COLUMN(B4)+1)*ISODD(ROW(B4:H15)ROW(B4)+1)))
Using one range (B4:H15), one reference (B4), one lookup value (L5) and no INDIRECT or OFFSET.
My trial with defined names:
DateRange
=$B$4:$H$4,$B$6:$H$6,$B$8:$H$8,$B$10:$H$10,$B$12:$H$12,$B$14:$H$14
Position
=RANK('lookup problem'!$L$5,DateRange,1)
L6
=OFFSET(B4,ROUNDUP(Position/7,0)*2 1,IF(MOD(Position,7)=0,6,MOD(Position,7)1))
I'd probably just run with something like:
=SUMPRODUCT((B4:H14=L5)*(MOD(ROW(B4:H14),2)=MOD(ROW(B4),2))*B5:H15)
...which is basically the same as Elias' but without the IFs
The opposite of elegant but it works...
=INDEX(B4:H15,IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B4:B14,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,C4:C14,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,D4:D14,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,E4:E14,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,F4:F14,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,G4:G14,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,H4:H14,0),0)+1,IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B4:H4,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B6:H6,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B8:H8,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B10:H10,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B12:H12,0),0)+IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B14:H14,0),0))
=INDEX(B4:H15,
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B4:B14,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,C4:C14,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,D4:D14,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,E4:E14,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,F4:F14,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,G4:G14,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,H4:H14,0),0)+1,
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B4:H4,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B6:H6,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B8:H8,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B10:H10,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B12:H12,0),0)+
IFERROR(MATCH(L5,B14:H14,0),0))
Named Range
rownum = SUMPRODUCT(('lookup problem'!$B$4:$H$14='lookup problem'!$L$5)*ROW('lookup problem'!$B$4:$H$14)*ISEVEN(ROW('lookup problem'!$B$4:$H$14)))
Formula
=OFFSET($A$1,rownum,MATCH(L5,INDIRECT("$B"&rownum&":$H"&rownum),0))
How about SUM(IF(B4:H14=L5,B5:H15)) with array..it should work
Sorry, Chandoo, you can't find stuff this way in every possible scenario.
What if 20141001 sales would equal 41.927 ? Which is serial number for 20141015 ? SUMIF would fail to retrive correct answer. And your example data suggest that such number is possible in your table.
It's better not to search through dates and numbers at the same time.
If I'd solve a problem like this, it'd reformat table first so I get one column with dates and the other with numbers.
In this case, formula to form date column would be:
=INDIRECT(ADDRESS((INT((ROW()4)/COUNT($B$4:$H$4))+1)*2+2;MOD(ROW()4;COUNT($B$4:$H$4))+2;4;1))
and numbers would be the same formula with sight adjustment (+3 instead of +2 at the end of first argument):
=INDIRECT(ADDRESS((INT((ROW()4)/COUNT($B$4:$H$4))+1)*2+3;MOD(ROW()4;COUNT($B$4:$H$4))+2;4;1))
And now you got two columns that you can safely use for searching!
Oops, sorry, you actually mentioned that it doesn't work if number=date! I missed that part 🙁
={OFFSET(A1,SUM((B4:H14=L5)*ROW((B4:H14))),SUM((B4:H14=L5)*COLUMN((B4:H14)))1)}
Works for all data... the solution I got for indirect looks little lengthy
I want to count last 20 records of a person, whose marks is greater than 2 and grade "manager". ....
Assume A1 has got names (James, John...etc...)
A2 "Manager"
A3 "2"
Someone please reply
I want to count last 20 records of a person, whose marks is greater than "2" and grade "Manager"
Assume A1 "geroge" A2 "Michael" A3 "George" etc...name can found anywhere in the rows
B1 "Manager" B2" clerk"
C1 "2" C2, "4"
please reply
Simplest I can come up with. No limitations for either 1 or 2. This does assume dates are an ordered list with 7 per row, and 2 rows per set. Assuming this is always true this will work for an arbitrary long list of dates.
=OFFSET(B5,QUOTIENT($L$5$B$4,7)*2,MOD($L$5$B$4,7))
@Marc,
Nice approach  however, as there are no "Negative Dates"  try:
=OFFSET(B5,INT(L5B4)/7)*2,MOD(L5B4,7))
——————————————————————————
Michael (Micky) Avidan
“Microsoft® Answer” – Wiki author & Forums Moderator
“Microsoft®” MVP – Excel (20092015)
ISRAEL
=OFFSET(B4,ROUNDUP((L541911+1)/7,0)*21,MOD(L541911,7))
B4 has been used as reference cell for OFFSET().
FOR ROWS:
ROUNDUP(....,0) gives the integer value of a division. In case of presence of a remainder, ROUNDUP will add 1 to the Quotient.
As opposed to ROUNDUP(), the INT() or QUOTIENT() functions eliminate the remainder.
41911 = 01Sept2014, the first date in the data.
*2 has been used because there are 2 columns per set of data.
/7 has been used because there are 7 columns per set of data.
For columns
MOD(L541911,7))
Vijaykumar Shetye,
Panaji, Goa, India