Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
3.2 What is Data Analysis?
If you perform an internet search on the term Data Analysis , it will take years for
you to visit every site that is returned, not to mention encountering a myriad of dif-
ferent types of sites, each claiming the title data analysis. Data analysis means many
things to many people, but the goal of data analysis is universal. It is to answer
one very important question— what does the data reveal about the underlying sys-
tem or process from which the data is collected ? For example, suppose you gather
data on customers that shop in your retail operation, data that consists of detailed
records of purchases and demographic information on each customer transaction.
As a data analyst, you may be interested in investigating the buying behavior of
different age groups. The data might reveal that the dollar value of purchases by
young men is significantly smaller than those of young women. You might also
find that one product is often purchased in tandem with another. These findings can
lead to important decisions on how to advertise or promote products. If we con-
sider the findings above, we may devise sales promotions targeted at young men to
increase the value of their purchases, or we may consider the co-location of prod-
ucts on shelves that makes tandem purchases more convenient. In each case, the
decision maker is examining the data for clues of the underlying behavior of the
consumer.
Although Excel provides you with numerous internal tools designed explicitly
for data analysis, some of which we have seen already, the user is also capable of
employing his own ingenuity to perform many types of analytical procedures by
using Excel’s basic mathematical functions. Thus, if you are able to understand the
basic mathematical principles associated with an analytical technique, there are few
limits on the type of techniques that you can apply. This is often how an add-in is
born; an individual creates a clever analytical application and makes it available to
others.
An add-in is a program designed to work within the framework of Excel. They
use the basic capabilities of Excel; for example, its ability to use either Visual Basic
for Applications (VBA) or Visual Basic (VB) programming languages to perform
Excel tasks. These programming tools are used to automate and expand Excel’s
reach into areas that are not readily available. In fact, there are many free and
commercially available statistical, business, and engineering add-ins that provide
capability in user friendly formats.
Now, let us consider what we have ahead of us. In this chapter, we are going to
focus on the built-in data analysis functionality of Excel and apply it to quantitative
data. We will carefully demonstrate how we apply these internal tools to a variety of
data, but throughout our discussions, it will be assumed that the reader has a rudi-
mentary understanding of statistics. Further, recall that the purpose of this chapter,
and this topic for that matter, is not to make you into a statistician, but rather to
give you some powerful tools for gaining insight about the behavior of data. I urge
you to experiment with your own data, even if you just make it up, to practice the
techniques we will study.
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