Lacy Melina June 7, 2021 Spreadsheet
When Microsoft Excel is used to manipulate, store and analyse data it can become extremely difficult to manage, let alone efficiently work to produce any meaningful insights. This is because with data sets large and small, the data must be meaningful, logical, structured, internally consistent and clean. This holds true regardless of whether the data has been imported into excel from another system or manually entered. In this computing age, most people know that for any data set to be useable it must first be relatively structured and clean. A spreadsheet and its table layout naturally encourages data to be somewhat structured, however ensuring data is clean is also difficult.
About four months after my husband asked for a divorce I made an appointment to meet a divorce attorney recommended by my therapist. She was 60 years old, short, smart and focused. I thought she was great. She charged $350.00 per hour. It was good that she was focused. I was at the time furious at my husband for his recent behaviors and I told her that I wanted to file for divorce immediately. Could she explain the process to me?
Lester P. Goodbinder had suffered another agonizing week in Pittsburgh. The semi-annual audit he conducted at the Bourgeois Ball Bearing Factory stretched into five 14-hour days examining electronic spreadsheets on an archaic computer system installed in the early ‘80s. The equipment churned so abysmally he cleverly joked to himself it was powered by lazy hamsters on treadmills. Not only that, the accounting software loaded on the system was an early version of ”Abacus,” and only slightly faster than a key-punch adding machine but considerably slower than a hand-held calculator.
Given this data set imagine trying to find out which Fridays you were busy at an appointment at noon while your partner was also busy at an appointment at noon and the descriptions of both of your appointments contained the phrase down town. If you are not familiar with relational databases and SQL it might surprise you to know that the question can be answered by a single simple SQL query. The database and SQL don‘t have it all their own way however. Spreadsheets come in to their own for tasks that benefit from a visual representation. Traditionally databases do not provide a visual way to browse the data in tables without explicitly requesting data.
So why does data that inevitably finds its way into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet often suffer from the problems outlined above. The reasons are many. If the data is imported, it may have been sourced from a combination of other spreadsheets, databases, systems, reports, word documents, emails or web pages. If the data has been entered manually it may have been poorly done so by an inexperienced computer users such as administrative or junior staff with a lack of understanding for data structures. Excel is easy to use and widely accessible, so an inexperienced colleague can quite easily update your spreadsheet with a false sense of confidence and inadvertently enter new data incorrectly. And finally, unlike a fully functional software system, data entry in Excel generally has no automatic validating rules, unless carefully setup by the spreadsheet‘s creator.
Here‘s where the expense sheet gets complex. All of your categories of spending go in column A. Get as detailed as you like, or keep it really simple and just put the basic categories. Generally, the more detail the better. it‘s also helpful to have categories for your categories. A Utilities category for your power, gas, water, etc, categories. Again, detail is good, but be wary of going into too much detail. Column B is where you‘ll put the amount that you‘re budgeting for that category. Column C, how much you‘ve spent on that category to date. If you like (or are a statistics junkie) you can add columns for % of budgeted amount, and % of total budget as well. For our simple budget, we‘ll just leave that out for now.
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