8 Ways Data Preparation Software can Boost Excel Productivity

Jun 27, 2018

The most time-consuming process of doing analysis in Excel is data cleansing which can be  extremely slow and laborious. However, it is very important because the cost of a mistake caused by incomplete information, discrepancies and outliers, can cause serious faults in your analysis that could significantly impact business outcomes. The only way to get value out of your data is to first prepare the data.

Unfortunately, unrealistic expectations can be set about how long data preparation can take. Your manager may think that you can click a few buttons to transform raw data set into actionable analysis within an hour or two, but the reality is, no matter how powerful Excel is, it can still take several hours and more to manually compile and clean your data using spreadsheets. And if you need more complex coding or programming to complete your analysis, you may have to do a YouTube tutorial to learn how to perform a task or involve the IT department, both which can add time and effort that further lengthens the time it takes to get the output you need.  According to Forbes and InfoWorld, It is estimated that data preparation can take as much as 80% of your time.  

There are many reasons data preparation is so time consuming. Typically, the analysis process involves data from many different sources which can be difficult to merge because the diversity of the disparate data sets. Then the data that is used could contain missing, out of range or invalid values. During the analysis process, spreadsheets continuously evolve, increase in complexity and become more susceptible to errors. Then, when multiple spreadsheets and datasets are being used with many different calculations, it is easy to lose your place which makes it difficult to find and correct a mistake you may have made several changes earlier. And when using Excel, people rarely document their various dataset versions and version control becomes a problem. All these issues lead to a lot of wasted time spent troubleshooting and data cleaning.

With the purpose-built data preparation software, you can eliminate all this this pain and improve your data quality. Here are eight key ways you can significantly boost your productivity with Excel using purpose-built data preparation software:

1.     No more coding or having to rely on IT: Users can incorporate basic and advanced actions without having to learn VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) macros or involve the IT department. Excel doesn’t go away, you just import your information into data preparation software and manipulate your data using a visual interface to filter, add, merge, calculate, profile, lookups, pivots and a whole lot more without a single line of scripting.

2.     Data visualization: The visual interface makes it less challenging to comprehend a lot of data. Using this visual representation of your data transformations, it is more efficient to review and process data findings because you can visualize your transformation workflow. This is much more difficult in a spreadsheet environment where calculation logic is hidden under layers of formulas and VBA macros.  In addition, it is easier to discover errors which can otherwise be a very time consuming process. 

3.     Automatic documentation: Each action is recorded so you have ongoing documentation of your data manipulations and calculations.  This makes it much easier to make changes, identify problems and keep track of your work history. Others can review your work and follow-along without detailed explanations.

4.     Easier merging from multiple data sources: Merging data from different sources can be accomplished by joining one or more matching columns from another table with features like Lookup, left join and full join modes to combine information (again, no coding required).

5.     Dealing with large data sets:  The data limitations of Excel also go away because most data preparation software can handle a lot more data than Excel without the sluggishness that is encountered with larger datasets and saves you time not having to deal with an unresponsive computer.

6.     Automation of tedious tasks: Automation functionality saves additional time by automating repetitive activities such as copying, renaming, unzipping files, executing external programs, and automatically sending email alerts to notify when a scheduled calculation fails or when data quality issues are detected.

7.  Process multiple files at once:  Frequently, source data for different dates or regions is stored in separate, but uniform files. Loading and automatically appending multiple uniform files at once can be challenging in Excel, especially when there are tens or hundreds of files to load. A good data preparation tool eliminates this frustrating process so you can seamlessly process and append multiple files within the software.

8. Data quality guards: There are built in functions that allow users to create and maintain quality data as a part of the data transformation process, minimizing human error. Business logic is used for workflows that can halt a process if a certain data condition is met or not met. In addition, automatic notifications can be sent if key data is missing or doesn’t fall into a specified range. For example, if there are values in a column that are expected to always be positive, a data quality guard can be set to halt a calculation and trigger an error message if there are any negative values that show up in that column. 

Although, data preparation software is a little-known resource, it provides many ways to simplify the data prep and cleaning process to free up your time, so you can spend more time on more value-added activities. EasyMorph is a great example of a data preparation solution that can be used to boost your Excel productivity and  you can be up and running in less than five minutes.

Author: Dmitry Gudkov, Business Intelligence Architect and Founder of EasyMorph

Dmitry Gudkov is the founder of EasyMorph, a self-service, data preparation and automation software. Dmitry is an experienced Business Intelligence architect and passionate data lover. He founded EasyMorph is 2014 as a quest for a simpler and more efficient way to transform and manipulate data. Something with the ease of use of Excel, power of a database, and flexibility of a programming language, yet simple enough to be used by people without a technical background. EasyMorph has over 20,000 downloads and a rapidly growing customer base in 4 continents. Click here to download a free version of EasyMorph. 

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