VLOOKUP() vs. INDEX(MATCH()), which should you use?!
I recently read an excellent article, where its Excel MVP-author makes a very compelling, albeit biased argument towards using INDEX(MATCH()) function combo, instead of taking the VLOOKUP() route. That article jokingly proclaimed the end of the VLOOKUP vs. INDEX(MATCH()) debate. Interestingly enough, some of the heavy-weight Excel MVPs and expert users weighed in on this issue, in essence continuing the debate. One of the commentators, published an equally brilliant rebuttal, skewing the victory towards the VLOOKUP function. Being a biased VLOOKUP proponent myself, I concur with his conclusion completely. In addition, I’d like to throw in a crazy idea of using SQL as a better, faster, more flexible, and easier solution, comparing to either: VLOOKUP(), or INDEX(MATCH()).
I believe there is no disagreement here: VLOOKUP enjoys tremendous popularity. People have different opinions whether this popularity is justified. I belong to the “ease of use” and “ease of learning” VLOOKUP camp: two of many factors that help us explain high adoption rate of this function among all Excel users. Continue reading
Solving ModelOff Data Analysis problem using Microsoft Access SQL.
Last week we solved ModelOff’s Data Analysis problem from their 2013 championship. Since the second round of 2014 Model Off competition takes place this Saturday, November 8th, let’s pay respect to the data superheroes making it thus far. Our previous ModelOff solution involved using PivotTable feature of Microsoft Excel. Would you believe that we can realistically conceive a solution to the Data analysis problem, using Microsoft Access, or even better, Microsoft’s flavor of the SQL language?
I am as big of an Excel fan as the next guy, much bigger, actually, on the second thought. However, I also believe that when possible, using the right tools for the job will yield better, faster results, than duct-taping your workarounds. So, why Access? Why on Earth, SQL? Well, let’s go to the source: ” If you often have to view your data in a variety of ways, depending on changing conditions or events, Access might be the better choice for storing and working with your data. Access lets you use Structured Query Language (SQL) queries to quickly retrieve just the rows and columns of data that you want, whether the data is contained in one table or many tables. You can also use expressions in queries to create calculated fields.” Continue reading
Solving ModelOff Data Analysis problem from the second round of 2013 competition.
As some of you might know, Model Off 2014, championship kicked off last Saturday, October 25th. With the first round of this modeling competition behind us, I thought that this might be a good time to tackle one of their older problems. I might be biased here, but starting with their Data Analysis problem made a perfect sense to me. Luckily enough, this could arguably be one of the easiest problems they have ever presented. You can download both: Questions/Answers worksheet and Excel workbook with source data for this problem directly from their website.
As usual, I will not pretend to have the best possible, optimal solution, I simply offer one which works. Since in the real world, we are not constrained by challenging time restrictions, imposed on ModelOff contestants, I was not concerned about the most efficient solution, but rather the one that is more presentable. As an example, my solution heavily relies on Top Ten filtering feature available for PivotTables, this might seem like an extra step comparing to simply presenting all records and then sorting them in order of preference. In my humble opinion this is a better way to present top 1/3/5/n results, rather than looking at extra records of data.