Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you know what Excel is. For most, the name conjures images of complicated charts, pivot tables, or bar graphs that work based on lengthy data-filled tables. But if you’re part of the data entry team, Excel may lead to a cocktail of emotions and long nights spent trying to create the perfect database for each department.
Still, with over one billion MS Office users worldwide, Excel is the go-to software for most businesses that don’t have to handle Big Data. The software is extremely flexible and allows users tons of features for data manipulation and processing.
However, not even the mighty Excel can deliver accurate results if it works with compromised data! This means that the first step for accurate data analysis is data entry. Still, when performed manually, the process is quite boring and frustrating, which opens the door for mistakes.
As such, today we are going to focus on how to make the data entry process smoother, faster, and error-free.
Use External Tools
Excel allows data import from a wide range of data formats (like CSV, TXT, or Access Database), but it’s not as accommodating when it comes to PDF files. Still, most businesses use PDF to send huge amounts of data (shaped as business reports, analyses, and more) since it’s a format that’s easy to compress without losing quality and structure.
Luckily, there is a reliable converter tool you can use to convert the data stuck in PDF format into an Excel-friendly format. This way, you avoid the drudgery of trying to turn the PDF into an editable format (usually Word) and then take the data and paste it into a spreadsheet. It’s no doubt that this would be a lengthy process, with lots of room for error!
Use a Data Entry Form
If data must be introduced manually, it’s best to use a standardized data entry form. This will create a pop-up form that helps users introduce new records to an existing data set while performing an initial data integrity check. As such, if the new data doesn’t follow the rules, it won’t accept the recording and add it to the data set.
For instance, if the user doesn’t follow the specified format for phone numbers, it will be prompted (by the form) to fix their mistake.
In addition, this type of form makes it easier for operators to add records in large data sets, with many fields.
There will always be situations where certain data is repeated or requires extra formatting (like adding the dot to decimal numbers), and this slows down the process (leading to frustration and exhaustion).
Luckily, Excel has a few cool tricks available that let data entry operators reduce the time spent with menial, repetitive tasks. Here are some of the most used ones:
- CTRL + D to copy/paste – the command copies the data and the formatting and pastes in the selected area.
- Automatically insert a decimal point – this is an option available in File -> Options -> Advanced. Here, you have to select the number of decimals (usually 2) and Excel will automatically place the last digits as decimals.
- Control + semicolon Key (;) – to enter the current date in the cell.
- ALT + Down Arrow – provides you with a list of all the unique entries in that column. This one is perfect for when you juggle the same values (like when you’re entering the status of a specific element).
If you find these useful, there is an entire list of keyboard shortcuts that can make your life easier.
Excel may not age well in the era of Big Data, but it still has lots of value for small businesses and individual users who handle light data sets. It’s also extremely valuable for creating visual analytics that can boost the value of a presentation or a sales pitch.
In short, while it may be a bit of drudgery to get the correct data in a spreadsheet, it’s still a task worth doing.