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Data Quick Tips and Best Practices

Overview

To help financial users analyze data in effective ways, the Controller’s Office Financial Data Solution Center is actively working with UFIT, UF HR Training & Organizational Development and UF Research to increase resources.

As new quick tips or resources are created, they will be added to this site.  Please e-mail controller-office@ad.ufl.edu with any suggestions for additional resources!

Stop!

What is the first step in analyzing any financial data? Stop and answer the following questions:

  1. What am I looking for?
  2. What is my objective or goal?
  3. What decisions will be made using this data?
  4. What is our overall strategic objective?
  5. Do I need more information?

If you are unsure about any of these questions, it is probably a sign that additional questions should be asked to clarify.

Common Language

Language is an essential part of this process – it is essential when we talk about information, reports, or data we have a common understanding of what they mean.  This not only applies when thinking about the data (what “date” do you need?) but also when talking across functions, such as with IT staff.

The UFIT Data Terms for Finance provides definitions for key terms to use when talking with UFIT to ask questions about reports.

Key Categories

There are four main categories to think about when analyzing or thinking about your data questions.

  1. Consistency & Variances
  2. Accuracy & Errors
  3. Allowability
  4. Available Balance

The question you are trying to answer will probably fall into one of those categories, which can help determine how to analyze the data and some resources to find the information.

Tools for Analysis

Excel is a powerful tool for analyzing data.  Running reports in the Excel version, and then organizing the data in a Pivot Table, helps to organize very large amounts of data.

The How to Create a Pivot Table job aid provides a step-by-step guide to get you started.

Another way to analyze data is by applying the Index-Match formula, which searches the data for terms in a table.  With the Sample Risk Term Table you can use the How to Use Index Match Formula to get started with flagging transactions that have any of the “risk terms” in the table.  You can modify this table to create your own based on the needs of the department, the Fund Code, etc.

Validate the Data

A final step is to always stop again and validate the data and limit potential pitfalls.  At this point, you should ask the questions:

  • Does the data seem logical?
  • Is this what I expect to see? If not, do I understand why?
  • How can I verify this data?
  • Where could I have gone wrong?

Last Reviewed

3/25/2021: created page

Contacts

University Controller’s Office: (352) 392-1321

UFIT Reporting Services: (352) 273-1415

General Accounting & Financial Reporting: (352) 392-1326