Using Spreadsheets for Analytics

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Spreadsheet packages are good at numerical handling and have a wide range of monetary and statistical functions. Calculations are easily presented in a readable form and to mix text and graphical display. Spreadsheets are inordinately popular, widely available and easy to use.

  • The flexibility of spreadsheets makes it possible to use them to tackle problems that would be more appropriately modeled with different software.
  • Their availability and ease of use makes this an extremely common mistake.
  • Before one can design a spreadsheet, he/she needs to make sure that a spreadsheet is the most appropriate tool for the job.

Excel has a wide range of add-in functions that allows a lot of specific calculations. Many of these can be very useful, but if it is found that many are used, it may suggest specialist packages. For example, if a person is using a lot of the database functions, he probably should be using database software.

The table below compares the strengths and weaknesses of a number of different analysis packages.

Software Type Strengths Weaknesses

e.g.: Microsoft Excel, Lotus 123

numeric manipulation;

financial functions;

user interface;

graphical reports;

easy to learn; and

time series modeling.

 handling large quantities of data;

multi-dimensional data;

systems with feedback or circularity;

looping and branching; and

can develop “black box” systems.


e.g.: Microsoft Access

handling large volumes of data;

user interface;

can develop “black box” systems; and

Multi-dimensional data.

complex calculations;

complex report structures;

graphical reports; and

time series modeling.

Statistical software e.g.: SAS handling large volumes of data; and

Complex statistical functions.

expensive; and

More difficult to learn.

Multi-dimensional packages

e.g.: Oracle Financial Analyser

multi-dimensional data;

handling large volumes of data;

“slice and dice” reporting; and

Aggregation of data.

specialised use;

more difficult to learn;

expensive; and

used more for information reporting than modeling.

System Dynamics packages

e.g.: Vensim, Powersim

systems with feedback or circularity;

“soft” variables such as staff morale;

multi-dimensional data; and

graphical representation of the model structure.

producing financial statements;

difficult to understand and accept the processes; and

specialised skills required to develop and maintain.

Rules based packages

e.g.: Applications Manager

can develop “black box” systems; and

looping and branching.

specialised use; and

more difficult to learn.

MS-EXCEL Window Elements

Microsoft Excel is a Spreadsheet package that is widely used for data analysis purpose. The work-space called the workbook is divided into a number of sheets called the worksheet. The screen that appears on opening MS-EXCEL is-

Various elements are

  • Menu Bar – It is below the title bar of the window, listing all drop down menu of MS-Excel It has nine drop down menus.
  • Status Bar – It is placed at the bottom of the window display status of keyboard lock keys (Num, scroll, Caps) and other computed result
  • Row and Row Number – The horizontal lines are called the rows these are numbered 1,2,3 and so on up to 65536.
  • Column and Column Number – The vertical lines are called the columns these named A, B, C and so on up to IV.
  • Cell – The intersection of the rows and the columns is called the cell.
  • Cell Address – The cell address comprises of the column name and the row address; therefore, the cell address of the very first cell would be A1 i.e. first column and first row.
  • Workbooks – In Microsoft Excel, a workbook is the file in which we work and store our data.
  • Worksheets – Use worksheet (The primary document that we use in Microsoft Excel to store and work with data. It is also called as a spreadsheet.
  • Work Sheet tabs – The names of the sheets appear on tabs at the bottom of the workbook window. To move from sheet to sheet, click the sheet tabs.


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