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6 Ways a Data Analytics Platform is Better than Microsoft Excel

Reading time: 5 minutes

By Earl Sires, Digital Content Marketer

Microsoft Excel is a gold standard spreadsheet software used by businesses across the country. While Excel is an excellent tool for storing and viewing data, and offers a fair amount  of functionality for organizing, manipulating, and sharing data, some users may want more for their data preparation needs. A data analytics platform can make that broader functionality available to everyday users.

In this post, we’ll compare Excel’s capabilities with the functionality of a full data analytics platform.

6 Ways an Analytics Platform Improves on Excel:

  • User Interface
  • Formulas and Manipulating Data
  • Predictive Modeling Capability
  • Repeatability and Data Integrity
  • Data Sharing
  • Customer Support

User Interface

What Excel Does…

Excel is great at displaying data points in a clean, organized fashion. The spreadsheet interface is familiar and comfortable and allows for several sorting options.

What an Analytics Platform Does Better…

Drag-and-drop functionality allows for easy, straightforward manipulation of data. Instead of copying and pasting cells or sifting through menus, simply move nodes named for the processes they represent into an easy-to-follow flowchart layout.

This visual approach means even an untrained user can follow the process you’ve built, and allows you to make changes without backtracking or wasted effort. You’re also able to merge and append multiple files in varied formats with ease to get all of your data in one place. In the image below, you can see how clear and intuitive the process of working with data can be.

Formulas and Manipulating Data

What Excel Does…

Formulas in Excel allow for a great deal of data manipulation. If you’re well-versed in how to use formulas, you can create very elaborate and intricate spreadsheets that perform a lot of work in the background to generate results automatically.

What an Analytics Platform Does Better…

Drag-and-drop nodes named for their functions make it clear and obvious how to perform operations. Additionally, data analytics opens more advanced functionality, such as generating new variables out of existing data.

As an example, you can generate a column that matches zip codes in your data with another location, then generate a column showing the distance of each data point from that location. This functionality opens the door to a new way of drawing insights from your data.

Predictive Modeling Capability

What Excel Does…

There are techniques available in Excel to predict outcomes, but these techniques are complex and require a deep understanding of the software. For example, you can create a multiple regression model if you have advanced Excel training and a good understanding of math.

What an Analytics Platform Does Better…

Modern predictive modeling solutions make building a model easy, even for users without training in math.

Data analytics platforms automatically identify variables with strong predictive qualites, then generate an algorithm based on those variables.

A full data analytics platform allows you to drill down into your model to verify its accuracy.

You can easily perform a variety of tests to ensure that your model is designed correctly, such as decile and cluster analyses, which give you a visual understanding of how your model is processing data.

This applies even to very large, complex datasets. An analytics platform distills complicated processes into simple steps and lists of variables. This makes working with a large pool of data much more manageable.

Repeatability and Data Integrity

What Excel Does…

Copying and pasting formulas is the most common way to repeat a process in Excel. The formula typically automatically updates to reflect relevant changes between where you copied it from and pasted it to.

Additionally, documents and spreadsheets can be cloned and updated with new information. Multiple versions of a document can be saved with different names to preserve the integrity of the original data. Macros can be built to make some of this work easier for advanced users.

What an Analytics Platform Does Better…

With the right data analytics platform, once you build a process, you can save it for the future and simply plug a new dataset into the existing job. This completely removes the repetitive work of copying and pasting from other spreadsheets or cloning and reworking existing documents. It means not having to recreate the process the next time you need to execute the same process with a different set of data — just plug in the new data and run the job.

This also reduces risk of errors; when copying and pasting existing forms in Excel, there’s always the chance that old data or formulas could accidentally be included in the new document. This is not a risk when working with a repeated, tested, saved process.

Analytics platforms also maintain the integrity of the original data, because the source data isn’t modified when it’s run through a process. It always preserves the original document – the newly produced output reflects the changes. The process is “read-only” as it regards the source data.

Data Sharing

What Excel Does…

Microsoft’s suite of software products offers a program called SharePoint, which allows users to access and contribute to Excel spreadsheets in real time. While this functionality makes collaboration and sharing easier, it lacks features offered by a full analytics platform.

What an Analytics Platform Does Better…

With data analytics, you can share data in a much more comprehensive way. Users can pull their own reports and dashboards at any time including only the information they need to see. In addition, the data is constantly refreshed, so there’s never a risk of acting on outdated information.

Customer Support

What Excel Does…

Microsoft provides online self-help resources for Excel, as well as some basic in-product assistance. Since it’s such a universally-used product, there are countless user-created guides and video tutorials available, though some are more trustworthy than others.

What an Analytics Platform Does Better…

The right data analytics platform offers excellent customer support provided by specialists in the field. Trained data analysts with a deep understanding of the software are an invaluable resource in helping get you through an issue you’re stuck on.

Another consideration is that your training in Excel will probably be entirely self-guided. Online tutorials and guides can get you a long way, but it’s a one-way process. With the right analytics platform, you’ll get personal, one-on-one training and support, not to mention access to an extensive library of detailed reference materials.

In Conclusion

Microsoft Excel is great at what it does, but it lacks the features of a full analytics platform. While you can view, share, and manipulate data with Excel, the functionality available to perform each of those tasks is limited, not always intuitive, and difficult to replicate.

A full analytics platform expands your ability to organize data, build predictive models, and share data with reports and dashboards. To see why Rapid Insight is the data analytics platform you’ve been looking for, click the link below for a free demo!


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