At a time when digitalization has become unavoidable, many professionals are wondering whether they should use Excel or an adapted solution to prepare their data. Comparing and contrasting these two work tools allows us to expose the advantages and disadvantages of each of them. The objective of this article is to help you make the right choice regarding the tool that will improve your productivity, reduce your costs and allow you to achieve the performance you are looking for.
If you are reading this article, a data preparation tool will surely be needed to help your teams. Let's introduce our solution: Tale of Data.
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Data preparation: Excel or data preparation solution?
Prepare your data with Excel
Excel is an excellent tool for creating spreadsheets, charts and reports. Easy to use, Excel can be used by anyone and allows advanced users to create advanced analytical functions.
However, Excel has limitations when it comes to data preparation
Indeed, the tool was not specifically designed to handle large amounts of data, nor does it allow for the reuse of work. In addition, problems arise when columns contain thousands of values or when there are many duplicates.
Excel does not easily allow for file sharing and it does not really fit into a process of industrialization and reliability of data. Moreover, the use of filters is often the only way to find outliers in a file; this is long, tedious and does not allow any industrialization of the process.
Prepare your data with Tale of Data
With the Tale of Data tool, you can immediately explore your data. Indeed, the solution scans all your structured data by automatically identifying those which would be missing, incoherent or aberrant (duplicates/triplicates/entry errors...).
In addition, the software also automatically generates the documentation of the processes (flows in Tale of Data), which makes it easy to transfer the file to anyone in the company. The solution is indeed "collaboration" and "industrialization" oriented. This is not the case with Excel which is often in "one shot" mode.
With this data preparation solution, all your data is standardized so that it is accessible and understandable by all employees. They will then feel able to identify any superfluous information, to identify the origin of a data, etc.
Data cleansing: manual or automatic?
Clean up your data with Excel :
When you want to clean, organize and standardize your Excel table, you have to do it manually. Similarly, writing formulas requires manual intervention.
Sorting, deleting and adding are time-consuming actions knowing that spelling mistakes can creep in when adding new items, calculation errors can be inadvertently introduced, etc.
Clean up your data with Tale of Data:
No manual intervention is required.
The platform takes care of cleaning your data. Thanks to the artificial intelligence algorithms embedded in the solution, missing, ill-formed or inconsistent data are automatically identified. In fact, the system does most of the work by scanning all the elements and then editing a data quality audit report.
Suggestions for corrections can be made to help you improve your dataset.
You can choose from 100 ready-to-use transformations in just a few clicks to assemble, normalize, straighten or enrich your data.
The solution also allows you to verify, make reliable and modify data in a very short period of time.
Tale of Data customers have the ability to create business rules in a natural language to perform controls tailored to their needs without coding. In other words, the user can define control rules through our intuitive and easy-to-access interface with explicit menus.
Data source and import - single or multiple?
Importing data into Excel :
Importing data into Excel is limited. The Excel spreadsheet allows you to import :
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) files, also called flat files. These files contain several records (header lines, business detail lines, invoice or order lines) that are separated from each other by a specific character (the semicolon, the vertical or pipe(|) separator or the tab). The CSV format is the most popular example.
Files on SharePoint or OneDrive.
Apart from these files, Excel does not allow the import of other types of files.
It should also be noted that Excel does not have a function for adding attachments.
Import your data on Tale of Data :
Tale of Data allows you to import data from a variety of sources, either simply by reading or writing. These are CSV, Excel, JSON, XML files, etc.
Tale of Data also connects to a wide range of file storage or relational databases, a wide variety of data sources: analytical storage, NoSQL, etc. This makes it possible to assemble data, prepare it and standardize it so that it can be exploited in a format accessible to all trades.
Data sharing: laborious or interactive?
Share your data on Excel :
One of the major limitations of Excel is the difficulty of sharing files with other people in the company. Very often, data is shared by e-mail, which can lead to the creation of multiple versions, erroneous data entry, incomprehensible modifications for some, a lack of interactivity, a waste of time, etc. If the owner of the file makes changes in his shared file, the other collaborators have to wait for the data to be updated to have access to it.
The problem of sharing becomes difficult when some data is not visible. Often a second file is created to remove rows or columns that should not be shared. Even trickier is updating the data on both sides, the owner and the person with access to the file. A shared spreadsheet can be customized and what is perfectly obvious to one user may not be obvious to another.
Sharing an Excel file with another person can therefore :
Create multiple versions of the file
Contain incomprehensible changes
Moreover, no traceability of the data is possible. It is then difficult to know who modified or deleted which row or column, etc.
The lack of interactivity of Excel does not facilitate communication between employees either. Indeed, the impossibility of generating alert emails wastes time and does not allow for real-time reactions.
Share your data on Tale of Data:
Tale of Data allows you to work interactively with data. All collaborators can exchange, work simultaneously and directly on the platform. As the system is centralized, all teams can work together in a dedicated, interactive, visual and secure workspace. Thanks to this space, each user can scroll or filter the data in an automated and assisted environment.
Finally, with the automatic generation of documentation, the work between employees is simplified. They save time and can be more productive with up-to-date and reliable data.
Excel or Tale of Data - How to choose?
By capitalizing on data with a data preparation solution, companies reduce processing costs and acquire qualitative data in a very short time.
Whatever the number of manipulations or processing, Tale of Data allows tracking and historization. Each action carried out by the users is self-documented by the solution: we find the notion of "data lineage".
This being said, Excel remains an excellent tool for performing light data management tasks. However, its capabilities are quite limited and do not allow you to see, for example, the operations performed to clean up a data set.
Another shortcoming is that you have to save each version and once the spreadsheet is closed, there is no way to undo the changes previously made. Excel remains a very good individual office tool.
It is not recommended to use it as a solution to manage and execute complex tasks.
A true data preparation tool will therefore allow:
audit, adjust and enrich data,
to monitor them to control them and share them with as many people as possible,
to guarantee their quality and reliability for analysis and process automation purposes.