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Proper Data Entry

Excel is ideal for gleaning information from data.  However, the data must be inputted in a structured manner.  For example below is a snapshot of two spreadsheets with the same data one is structured the other unstructured.


Before                                                                         After

I received a workbook like the one in the before picture and was asked to glean information from it.  Those were hours of my life I rather not revisit again. If someone asked the following questions: How many classes are taught on Tuesday? How many classes taught in Queens?    The answers to these questions are difficult to attain due to the format of the data.  The only way to get this information would be to manually count cells.   A few brief points about the workbook to the left: always segregate data into fields (headers).  Every item should be grouped with like items.  For example, items should be grouped by course id, instructor etc.  These contents should not be grouped into one cell.  This is a common but short-sighted practice.  One other faux-pas is the addition of multiple header rows into data.  I rarely use the word "never" but never do this.  As an alternative use freeze panes or split screen tools to keep the header in view.

The worksheet to the right can easily be used to attain the number of courses, instructors or any other information using basic tools like filter, sort and subtotal.  The take home point here is structure your data properly.  It's hard to determine the end use of a workbook. Doing it right the first time will save you and everyone else time in the long run.



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