This is Part 3 of a series on analytics which will appear each Wednesday on The TIBCO blog. You can read Part 1, Isolate Problems and Use Analytics to Solve Them, and Part 2, Data Visualization Saves Time.
We want to find a better way for users and analysts to develop a greater understanding of their companies. That’s why we’re proposing a breakup with Excel.
It’s not that Excel isn’t good enough for your data. There is just a better and faster way to visualize information, and find key insights in the data you’re collecting in those spreadsheets that flow from databases with marketing and sales backend analytics and information.
So, just like when you’re deciding to breakup with a vendor, we’re offering some pros and cons of moving to a data discovery platform such as Spotfire Cloud.
Excel is a useful tool that’s been around the block; it’s been there and done that. It can hold large amounts of data. It’s useful for separating a deluge of info on your customers. The program quickly sorts and plots key facts and figures about your customers and business systems.
Users can easily perform some data analysis on the information that resides inside Excel with formulas and macros. The program serves its purpose in these areas quite well. But there’s a catch when it comes to some of the more modern uses of data analysis.
Now it’s on to the downsides of Excel in today’s business environment for the curious cultivator of data. Excel supports lots of data, but it doesn’t share nicely. Think about it: You probably have a sophisticated versioning system in place to keep track of Excel changes among your team. Or one person on the team is responsible for the master Excel workbook for this, that, and the other.
Excel is only good for sorting things out one variable at a time. Unless you’re a power user, Excel requires lots of programming to sort for a variety of factors. It is challenging to traverse complex relationships in your data.
Combining data in Excel is time-consuming and tedious. If you’re pulling data in from multiple sheets or sources, you have to clean it up and get it “just so” to work with it in Excel. The program lacks the functionality to drag and drop data sets as required by a user in real time. And if something’s off, it takes some detective work to get it right.
Excel is not built to drill down to single records. Drilling down to a specific customer complaint or finding outliers isn’t intuitive. Filters can be applied, but if you’re looking for a specific record, it’s going to require that you go outside Excel.
Excel is designed for sorting, presenting charts, and reporting. It’s not designed to assist you if you don’t have a specific question in mind.
Excel is great for a lot of things, but when it comes to asking questions such as, “I wonder what would happen if…,” Excel falls a little short without some serious programming. And that may not even work in all cases. Sometimes it’s looking at the data as a whole (as in a data discovery dashboard) that draws out the questions.
We think Excel is part of the data discovery discussion, not the end-all solution. That’s why we aren’t proposing a full breakup, just a new look at the bigger data discovery picture.
Try Spotfire now for 30 days and see how it impacts your business.