Chantel Enora June 10, 2021 Spreadsheet
Microsoft Excel is a phenomenally powerful calculator. You can create spreadsheets with 10,000 lines of data and calculate subtotals instantly. Indeed, if you change your data, any totals will get automatically updated. Arguably that‘s not too impressive. If we have quarterly revenues of $1m, and we secure another $20k, we can update our subtotal without summing revenues from scratch. So it‘s more impressive that Excel can do the same thing with statistical functions. If you‘ve ever plotted a chart on Excel, you may be aware that you can add a best fit line. These best fit lines are calculated using a method known as regression. Basically, you have to calculate the distance of every single point from the line, and minimise the sum. The maths is a little more sophisticated but the key point is that, every time you change the data, you need to perform the analysis all over again.
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?
I don‘t think so. My husband and I weren‘t a great married couple but we were excellent business partners. We almost never, actually maybe NEVER, fought about money. We agreed on how to raise our kids and were always honest about our finances. He made a lot of money and I had some money of my own from my grandmother and would inherit when my parents died. I knew that we would be able to sort through these things better on our own. Most significantly, he LOVED to make spreadsheets and certainly would not be willing to pay someone else make one for him. I did some research on the internet to see what our options would be. I knew we couldn‘t do it ourselves but that we would need some assistance because our finances were complicated. I learned about divorce mediators, professionals who work with couples at an hourly fee to help them navigate the process. It sounded like it would work for us so we agreed to find one. And we did. Well, I did.
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.
He grossed $2,000 a week for his bosses, and earned slightly less than $500 for himself. Still, the wages kept him in seeds, bowling shoes, stick pins, and a Platinum Buddy Holly Fan Club Membership. Lester‘s favorite word was ”crapola,” and he applied it to the ball bearing factory‘s antiquated data processing system in coats as thick as the olive drab membrane clinging to the smudgy glass before him. ”You piteous piece of crapola!” he‘d hiss at the computer when error messages flashed across its screen or its ancient system locked under the demand of crunching numbers to the tenth decimal point. ”Some day I‘ll throw your sorry ass into one of those melting pots out there!”
As a set of general rules data is most useful when things like text fields hold only names as well as meaningful and validated codes, categories and classifications. Text notes and other free form text should be isolated to a dedicated notes field and thus separated from other numeric data. Numeric fields should hold only numeric values (numbers, dates, %‘s and in the correct quantum or magnitude with no text prefixes, suffixes, spaces, text elements or text notes present. You must also be careful that numeric data is not stored as text and it should be internally consistent in terms of the correct format so that it can be used in calculations or for comparison and queries. Finally, addresses should be separated out into multiple fields such as street address, town /suburb, state / province, postal code and country to allow for geographic analysis and mail outs if required. Fixing up a data set to meet these criteria is called data scrubbing, cleansing or massaging. This data cleansing process can be very time consuming even for an experienced Microsoft Excel user, database engineer, business analyst or computer programmer.
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