Everyone knows Microsoft Excel. Even if you’re not deep in spreadsheet analysis every day, you know what Excel does. And you know the basics of how to look at it.
So, it’s no surprise that most people prefer to receive and analyze their data in Microsoft Excel. Here’s why.
People trust Excel.
It’s familiar. It’s already on your computer. And it’s easy to figure out, even if you’ve never used it before.
Given the option to learn a new data analysis program or to get that data in Excel, which would you choose?
Data doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Chances are, there’s some teamwork involved when it comes to analyzing and sharing data at your organization.
You’re not doing it just for your own benefit. You’re doing it because your organization has a need for it. Perhaps you’re analyzing data to identify new business opportunities. Or maybe you’re analyzing data to understand how successful a recent endeavor was. You might even be collaborating with a team to pull the data together.
Excel makes it easy to collaborate and work on spreadsheets together. And if your teammate doesn’t know what to do, you can pass on some tricks pretty quickly.
You don’t have time to learn a new program just to analyze your data.
Excel doesn’t have a learning curve, so time to insight is usually fast. You can choose your path to data analysis. You can work through rows and columns. Or you can click to display the data in a pivot table for deeper analysis. You can even create visualizations in charts or graphs in just a few clicks.
But Excel ≠ True Business Intelligence
Excel is a great tool for analyzing data. It’s especially handy for making data analysis available to the average person at your organization.
But there’s a step missing. Excel isn’t a single source of truth.
How do you get data into Excel?
The best way to get data into Excel is to export it from a trustworthy tool. The worst way is to copy and paste it yourself.
Here’s why. Copying and pasting data opens it up to errors. You might accidentally alter data without knowing it, and then your analysis is useless.
Where are you pulling it from?
Data can come from so many places. You might be getting it from databases like Db2, Oracle, or Microsoft SQL Server. Or you might be getting it from an application, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM).
Where the data comes from matters. If you have data in multiple systems, you need to be able to consolidate it to get a single version of the truth. You can’t just take some data from Oracle one day and from an ERP the next—and expect the results to be in sync.
Are you certain it’s valid?
You can’t just analyze data for the sake of analyzing data. You need to be certain that it’s valid before you go too far down the road of analyzing it.
Here are some questions to ask to make sure your data is accurate before it goes into Excel:
- Is any data missing?
- Is the data old?
- Can you find all the data you need?
- Do you have context for the data?
Is the data live?
Data is often just a snapshot in time. It can be helpful—but only if you leverage it before it falls out of date.
In many cases, once data is in Excel, it’s dead. It’s not up to date. And Excel doesn’t update if your data changes.
The Right Way to Use Excel
Excel can be truly useful to your organization, especially as more employees are called on to analyze data. But you shouldn’t rest all your expectations on Excel alone.
The right way to use Excel is as just one of the many tools in your business intelligence toolkit.
This is especially important if you’re storing data on IBM i. Using a business intelligence tool can help you get the data from the green screen to Excel.
Plus, business intelligence tools can help you make sure your data is accurate before you put it into Excel. Then you can analyze it with peace of mind.