Be A Data Analyst – Use A Spreadsheet

You hear a lot of news about data analysts and data scientists. Every company is using big data to understand customer needs and make decisions that affect their future. There is pressure for every non-profit and small business to start doing the same. You should use data to help you make decisions. But the best business intelligence tool that you have at your fingertips right now is a spreadsheet. 

Before you go out and buy a big and expensive data tool, use the tool that you have in front of you to prove out what you are looking for. Are you looking to have dashboards and graphs? Do you want to build a predictive model to show you the likelihood of some future event? Do you need to understand past seasonal trends? 

You might not be able to aggregate all of the data that you have, but you will be able to put together some. The larger spreadsheets can accommodate almost a million rows, do you have a million rows of data that you need to analyze?

Starting with a spreadsheet focuses your attention in three ways: 

  1. It helps you think about the data that you are pulling and using. Rather than hoping that your Business Intelligence tool will hook up to each database and pull the right information automatically, you have to choose the data that you will extract and use intentionally. 
  2. It gives you a granular idea of what your data looks like. Does it need to be cleaned? Are there missing pieces that you can see just by looking at the spreadsheet? Have the columns shifted?
  3. It makes you think through what you want to do with the data. Now that you have a table of data, so what? What insight do you want to gain from it? Having it in a spreadsheet allows you to try a few things very easily before creating a complex and very technical report. 

Start your data analytics journey with a spreadsheet.