by Dan McCarthy, event manager for Venueseeker
Excel has its many uses and has been the go-to format for logging data for many years. However, just because something is used universally does not make it the best solution. This is especially the case when it comes to analytics. These days, there are far superior choices for recording and interpreting big data.
Still not convinced and think Excel is the best thing since slice bread? Here are a few reasons Excel is not the optimal choice for analyzing your business:
Excel Is Prone to Errors.
All it takes is inputting one wrong data, and that creates a domino effect that renders the whole data inaccurate. One study, in fact, revealed that as many as 88% of Excel sheets contained errors. Can you really trust a tool with such a high margin of error? Of course, the error in this instance is human-made; nevertheless, the very manner in which data is inputted creates a high probability for mistakes. That’s just the very nature of manual data entry.
You Can’t Share an Excel Sheet.
Okay, this is not actually true. You can indeed share an Excel sheet by attaching it in an email. However, this is problematic in many ways. Some Excel sheets are so large that they exceed the attachment size limit. Even when they can be sent via email, you will have to resend a new one every time the sheet is updated. Also, the Excel sheet sitting in someone’s email leaves the information vulnerable should that email account get hacked.
Of course, some people remedy this by keeping their Excel sheet in the cloud. While definitely a smart strategy, there are still limitations. For starters, will you know who is making audits and when? If a mistake is made, there is no “paper trail” for determining who made the error. It can even be accidently deleted altogether with no backup in place.
They’re not Productive.
It’s simply time-consuming to have to manually input data into hundreds of cells or having to repeatedly copy and paste from one cell into another. The monotonous work not only reduces productivity that can be better spent elsewhere, but it’s also this type of mindless task that leads to errors in the first place. Duplicate data is another common occurrence that requires more time to fix, if they’re even spotted at all.
Many People Aren’t Excel-Literate.
Sure, people that work in finance or other similar departments may know Excel like the back of their hand. However, most lay people aren’t that well versed in Excel. They may not know how to create an extra column or get row C to automatically include the sums of Row A and B. In other words, there is a steep learning curve. By sticking to Excel, you’re forcing staff to use a tool they find confusing and intimidating. Furthermore, how many of these same people will actually know what they’re looking at if simply given the sheet in an email attachment with no instructions?
No Data Visualization.
To the untrained eye, an Excel sheet is just a sheet full of undecipherable numbers. It takes a trained staffer to collect the data and convert it into a meaningful report with easy-to-read charts; which can really enhance productivity. When just looking at the sheet,it’s difficult to determine which data sets are meaningful and which should be glossed over. Simply put, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.
Loss of Historical Data.
To prevent the Excel sheet from becoming monstrous in size, people often delete historical data as new data is inputted. Of course, you can always start a new sheet, but then the old one needs to be stored away, and that creates storage issues, or makes it difficult when old and new data need to be compared side-by-side.
Ideally, historical data should be kept close by so they can be examined in unison with new data to spot trends over time.
You can restrict access to Excel by enforcing password protection. The problem with this is that people either have access to the entire sheet or no access at all. There is no option for granting different degrees of access. This is a huge drawback; after all, does the human resource department, or the crew over at finance really need to have access to every department record?
Password protection is also problematic because it isn’t attached to user accounts. This means anyone can access the document should the password fall into the wrong hands.
The purpose of this piece isn’t to paint Excel in a bad light. The tool still has its use in many everyday applications. However, for data analytics, Excel is outdated. Superior options include the many business intelligence tools that are out there and eliminate many of the problems associated with Excel.
Dan McCarthy has worked in the event management industry for five years and is currently an event manager for the UK-based company Venueseeker. His portfolio includes many successful event planning projects for companies across various niches, including startup conferences and trade shows. He is currently a regular contributor for his company’s blog site. Follow him on Twitter at @DanCarthy2 or LinkedIn.