Which is the best analytic tool to learn?
There are many analytic tools available in the market.
I am often asked by budding analysts if there is a specific tool they should focus on at the start of their career.
MS Excel is the most popularly used analytic tool. Very few businesses function without Excel and I don’t remember any analytic project where I didn’t have to use Excel. It is a good idea to build expertise on Excel if you are going to build a career in analytics. Knowledge of basic excel functions is essential. In addition, knowledge of advanced functions like pivot tables, lookups, If-then statements, and a basic understanding of macros is helpful.
Training in Excel is an important part of the overall analytics training.
SAS is another tool that is very popular in business analytics, especially among companies in India. SAS is an expensive tool and most small businesses are not able to afford it. Yet it is the tool of choice among mid and large size companies. There is a strong chance that if you land an analytic job in India, you will be required to use SAS.
A lot of people ask me if they should learn R. R is one of the most popular open source analytic tools. Judging by the web statistics, R seems to be the most popular analytic tool in the world. R is an open source tool. Hence it is free and this is one of the key reasons for its popularity. However, the same reason is a hindrance when it comes to corporate use of the tool. Its open source nature does not lend itself very well to proprietary codes and products – things a corporate interested in protecting IP would be looking for. Hence, while R is very popular in research and among the academia, it is still not very popular in business. Having said that, R is a versatile and powerful analytic tool and anyone starting off in analytics would find training in R a good investment.
SPSS and SPSS Clementine are powerful and popular analytic tools that have become a part of IBM’s suite since IBM’s take over of SPSS. Both the tools are expensive like SAS. There are a lot of companies that use the SPSS products and it’s a good tool to learn if you know SAS and R.
Knowledge studio is another very powerful tool that works really well with decision trees. It also performs regression and clustering. The tool is compatible with the SAS language.
World Programming System (WPS) is a relatively new product that works with the SAS language. Most SAS code written for the SAS software will work as-is on WPS. The interface is intuitive and similar to Base SAS. This is a great product that is as powerful as SAS, works with SAS and is much lower priced than SAS. WPS will surely become a very popular tool in the near future.
There are other tools like Stata, Statistica, JMP and Minitab which are all fairly popular. As an analyst one should always be looking to broaden one’s exposure to the various tools available for business use and an opportunity to work on any new tool should be taken up with relish.
Here are some interesting links on various analytic tools.
Here is another interesting article that compares the popularity of various tools on the internet using a variety of innovative ways to measure online popularity of these products.