Get Organized: Clean, Easily Accessible Data

Whether you are using a spreadsheet to collect your data or you are already using a commercial database product to manage your data, designing a well organized structure for your data is the foundation of the project and it’s never too late to evaluate and improve that foundation.

A properly designed database will keep your data much more organized and provide faster data access. The structure of the database and the software managing the data will enforce the relationships between different sets of data. Data structures can be simple or they can be very complex. Many aspects are considered when designing the structure based on the needs; does it need to be fast for online processing? Reporting? Loading large amounts of data? Or perhaps it just needs to be easy to understand.

Many companies start off using a spreadsheet like Excel to collect and organize their data. It’s easy to get started with and works great to a point. It get a little more complicated to start introducing lists of data for users to pick from so everyone is entering data the same. Looking up a piece of data based on a user entry is another nice thing many people learn. Excel is quite capable but it’s not designed to be used for a robust user interface. Many people also run into trouble when they try to start looking at all the data they have entered over time into multiple Excel spreadsheets. They find they’ve entered data a little differently over time and it’s difficult to just cut and paste into a single sheet for analysis.