Limitations of Spreadsheets as a Tool for Analyzing Survey Data

Spreadsheets suffer from several inherent disadvantages when it comes to performing large scale tasks such as analyzing survey data. The amount of records spreadsheets can handle at any given time is quite limited in comparison to what is required for survey data, for example. Trend awareness is also a complex task which a spreadsheet is just not suitable to perform.

Recent studies indicate that over 90 percent of all spreadsheets contain errors. This amount of potential inaccuracy alone should preclude you from using spreadsheets as a primary tool for analyzing survey data — a task in which accuracy is imperative. Much of spreadsheet’s shortcomings in terms of accuracy stems from the fact that many of them are derived from older versions of other spreadsheets converted to perform a different function. While this tactic may save time in the short term, resources are lost when errors inevitably crop up down the line.

Types of Spreadsheet Errors

There are three primary types of spreadsheet errors which afflict their users with frustration and ultimately incorrect or inadequate information:

  1. Stealth Errors: As their name implies, these errors are especially problematic because of their difficulty in locating them. Often times, data can look reasonable and accurate at initial glance, but upon closer inspection is found to be wrong. The most hazardous aspect of stealth errors is that many are discovered years after they are relevant or sometimes are never discovered at all.
  2. Outlier Errors: These occur when a spreadsheet appears operational, but the results produced are obviously inaccurate. While these are easily found, fixing the calculations or formulas responsible for the error is a tedious and time-consuming task.
  3. Friendly Errors: Calling these types of errors “friendly” is a result of the spreadsheet software discovering them for you; an error message is displayed identifying the offending formula or calculation.

While spreadsheets have secured their place in today’s market place, utilizing them for the purpose of analyzing survey data often falls outside their scope of usefulness.

If you are interested in going beyond the spreadsheet and venturing in to the realm of powerful yet flexible survey analysis software, then look no further!

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