July 17, 2024
The Benefits of Google Sheets vs. Excel

Because it was introduced in 1985, Microsoft’s Excel has turn into the go-to spreadsheet program amongst monetary professionals—and, indisputably, it stays a robust software. There are plenty of reasons why it’s retained its reputation for many years. However the rise in cloud computing, particularly because the starting of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the exponential development of the quantity of knowledge companies accumulate have modified the best way we work, presumably eternally.

Right this moment’s collaborative, cloud-based enterprise setting is the place the benefits of Google Sheets actually stand out. Nonetheless, there are a lot of finance and enterprise professionals who’re still working with Excel spreadsheets in the identical manner that many people realized within the precloud period, even those that have switched to Microsoft’s cloud-based Microsoft 365.

In 2016, the commercial equipment manufacturing firm the place I oversee monetary knowledge analytics took the numerous step of transferring all of its 11,000 workers to Google’s G Suite, now Google Workspace—becoming a member of the rising variety of companies making the switch from Excel. Consequently, I’ve been utilizing Google Sheets virtually each day since then, changing into a self-taught skilled in its performance and progressive methods of working. I’ve used Google Sheets to construct discounted cash-flow fashions for giant acquisitions, to handle advanced integration initiatives, for monetary planning and evaluation, and, fairly often, as a substitute for a whiteboard once I wish to sketch one thing in an internet assembly.

On this article, I share a number of the benefits of Google Sheets, highlighting the options which have dramatically improved my productiveness. I additionally present an introduction to Google Apps Script, a robust software for automating workflows and increasing Google Sheets’ performance.

I don’t, nonetheless, present a head-to-head characteristic matchup of Excel versus Google Sheets; functionalities change so shortly that such an evaluation would turn into out of date inside weeks. As an alternative, I deal with Google Sheets’ benefits and the brand new methods of working that the emergence of on-line productiveness instruments have enabled. I additionally contact on a number of the damaging points of constructing the shift from Microsoft.

The Benefits of Google Sheets

The primary benefits Google Sheets has over Excel are seamless collaborative performance, the power to deal with extraordinarily giant initiatives and knowledge units by means of its integration with BigQuery, and the automation alternatives accessible by means of Google Apps Script. Whereas Excel and others additionally provide these capabilities, Google has made them so intuitive and end-user-friendly that even essentially the most change-averse finance professionals can shortly stand up to hurry and begin seeing tangible advantages.

Simple Collaboration

Essentially the most rapid benefit of utilizing Sheets is the ability to collaborate seamlessly. Within the previous type of working, you’d use a grasp file that somebody needed to “personal,” which was (in a finest case state of affairs) stored in a shared community folder or painstakingly emailed forwards and backwards amongst customers.

In distinction, Sheets incorporates a number of modes of collaborating, starting from the asynchronous—when collaborators work independently and principally at completely different occasions, in the identical file—to real-time simultaneous collaborative enhancing. With asynchronous enhancing, you should utilize the remark characteristic to alert folks to questions or issues and assign them duties that they will mark full once they end them.

Smart chips put fast info on the person’s fingertips with out their having to click on out of the doc. For instance, folks chips establish the individual liable for particular duties and supply a hyperlink to their contact info, whereas file and calendar occasion chips put context and extra supplies at hand. Mixed with the timeline view feature, which allows customers to visualise time-associated knowledge, sensible chips make Sheets a superb hub not just for monetary evaluation but additionally as a hub for actions and knowledge, together with all points of initiatives.

A finance project task list featuring smart chips for assignees and relevant documents. The author’s chip is expanded, showing his contact information.
Google sensible chips make it simple for customers to entry contact info and related paperwork with one click on.

Modifying a spreadsheet dwell with different colleagues is a robust manner of working. The productiveness of two or three people who find themselves all extremely expert with Google Sheets shortly constructing out a monetary or working mannequin collectively in actual time is a exceptional sight in comparison with the previous manner of working. The a number of cursors in numerous colours, transferring throughout the display screen on the similar time to construct a mannequin, look virtually like a time-lapse video of a portray being created.

There’s additionally room for several types of members. Not everybody wants to have the ability to edit a spreadsheet, for instance. View- and comment-only choices preserve safety and knowledge integrity whereas granting visibility to those that want it.

Constructed-in Model Management

In case you’ve ever had the painful expertise of a spreadsheet crash past restoration that leads to hours of misplaced work, you may need developed the behavior of saving information steadily. That is nice—if cumbersome—for one individual working alone, however when a number of variations of a file start to flow into amongst colleagues and somebody forgets to replace the file identify, chaos can ensue.

Google Workspace makes it attainable to have only one file all through the lifetime of the challenge, because of its built-in model monitoring. Accessible by means of “See model historical past” within the menu, this characteristic means that you can see all edits made to a doc by means of a helpful timeline. It additionally contains the identify of the one who made every change. Each alteration is saved and you may “rewind” to any earlier level within the file’s life, again to when it was first created. Not solely that, however for any particular person cell, you may choose “Present edit historical past” and click on again by means of every edit to see who modified it, when, and to which worth.

This characteristic is on the market to each Google Workspace person. Microsoft customers will want both SharePoint or OneDrive to entry model historical past for Excel.

Working at Scale

One of many misconceptions my colleagues and I had once we adopted Sheets was that it will be nice for small calculations—roughly like a complicated calculator—however not helpful for bigger fashions or knowledge units. However because it seems, Google Sheets is simply as highly effective as a desktop utility. As I reveal under, Google Sheets can capably deal with giant monetary fashions, and it could actually hook up with Google BigQuery to research large knowledge units.

For instance, if you’re engaged on an M&A challenge, one of many many paperwork you’re prone to want is a monetary mannequin to gather all of the related historic monetary knowledge and numerous forward-looking eventualities primarily based on drivers. In case you typically work on M&A, then you almost certainly have a tendency to begin from a template that comprises every part you want, akin to standardized monetary statements, valuation calculations, and so forth. The present doc then grows over the course of the challenge to include monetary and tax due diligence changes into the historic financials, utilizing industrial/market due diligence to assist the assorted eventualities for monetary projections.

Over the course of a number of months, the file can develop to dozens of tabs with a posh internet of hyperlinks between them. Sheets not solely handles the big quantity of interconnected knowledge effectively however, because of its model historical past characteristic, you’ll by no means once more yell “Who modified the low cost charge?!” when your valuation mannequin output is unexpectedly off.

Analyzing Very Giant Information Units

As I discussed, Google Sheets connects to Google BigQuery, Google Cloud’s knowledge warehouse and analytics engine, which lets you analyze large knowledge units immediately in Sheets. BigQuery can home all your group’s knowledge and make it accessible for analytics use, whether or not for evaluation by area specialists akin to finance professionals or for superior machine studying use instances led by a knowledge science workforce.

To reveal the ability of this course of, I as soon as used the next instance in a Sheets coaching session at work:

  1. From inside Sheets, I linked to one of many public knowledge units in BigQuery: Chicago taxi journeys. On the time, this contained 195 million rows of knowledge.
  2. Then I created a pivot table from the total knowledge, with the time of day and day of week on the 2 axes, and the variety of journeys as values.
  3. Lastly, I utilized conditional formatting, akin to utilizing crimson to signify peak hours, to make the patterns stand out extra clearly.
This chart shows daily taxi demand in Chicago by day of week and hour, with red representing periods of highest demand and green representing the lowest.
Google BigQuery permits Google Sheets customers to connect with public knowledge units, akin to taxi demand in Chicago, in addition to home and analyze their very own proprietary knowledge.

The complete course of took lower than two minutes.

Until you’re within the taxi enterprise, this explicit knowledge evaluation is probably not very helpful, however it reveals how shortly you may analyze giant knowledge units utilizing the mixture of BigQuery and Sheets to successfully acquire and talk insights.

To supply one other instance of Sheets pivot desk utilization, a finance skilled may want to drag knowledge from completely different techniques into one evaluation—maybe one consolidation system holds higher-level knowledge that must be reconciled in opposition to a number of detailed knowledge sources. If your organization makes the information accessible by means of BigQuery, you may, with just some clicks, hyperlink every knowledge supply into one spreadsheet and put the related views subsequent to one another. You may then shortly carry out typical spreadsheet calculations proper subsequent to—and utilizing knowledge from—your BigQuery-powered pivot tables or extracts.

You may as well create charts and formulation utilizing knowledge from BigQuery knowledge units. When you’ve got all your monetary knowledge in BigQuery, you may develop analyses and stories in a short time.

Connecting to Exterior Information Sources

With the ability to pull knowledge right into a spreadsheet so to work with it’s a basic want for monetary professionals. Google Sheets provides a lot of built-in formulation that do that, such because the Googlefinance formula, which helps you to pull knowledge immediately from Google Finance. Though not corresponding to an expert service akin to Bloomberg, it’s however a superb software for acquiring public inventory and forex info, like these closing bell costs for Alphabet inventory in January 2018:

This table shows closing bell prices of Alphabet stock in January 2018, extracted by the Google Finance formula.
The Googlefinance formulation shortly extracts historic inventory value info for Alphabet, Google’s mother or father firm.

There are additionally different, extra common methods to get knowledge from the net. The performance to extract an HTML desk or record immediately from an internet site can, for instance, be helpful with monetary, market, or different publicly accessible info that you simply wish to retrieve and work with.

Connecting to the Total Google Workspace

Google Apps Script is a robust software that opens virtually limitless prospects not solely to increase and automate workflows in Sheets, but additionally to attach it with different elements of Google Workspace. This automation software seamlessly connects Sheets, Drive, and BigQuery operations into one workflow. I’ve quite a few examples at work the place we’ve got used Apps Script to create numerous copies of a template reporting spreadsheet, mechanically downloaded completely different monetary info from BigQuery into every of them, after which shared every model with completely different folks. This ensured that numerous groups may see solely their very own delicate knowledge, like prices.

Does Google Sheets Have Any Disadvantages?

I’ve been evangelizing Google Sheets. Nonetheless, not everyone seems to be offered on its advantages but. And I feel that’s due to one in every of Sheets’ drawbacks: A lot of its advantages rely on collaboration with others, and also you’ll discover that uneven adoption in your group will place limits on how briskly you may take full benefit of a number of the options.

Additionally, Google Sheets, like all software program, can have its small annoyances, akin to a keyboard shortcut or two that aren’t what you’ll anticipate or a characteristic that’s lacking or doesn’t behave the best way you need. In lots of instances, although, these annoyances are primarily an issue for customers nonetheless habituated to Excel relatively than a practical weak point of Google Sheets.

One other drawback is that Excel’s success depends on its ecosystem of plugins, lots of which aren’t (but) accessible for Google Sheets. Which means when you can’t replicate what you want with Google Apps Script, utilizing Sheets means chances are you’ll have to toggle between each functions.

Enhanced Collaboration Wins Out

Spreadsheets are one of the vital essential instruments, if not the most essential software, for a lot of finance and enterprise professionals. They’re our canvases, our notepads, and our devices. Over the course of our careers, we spend hundreds of hours utilizing them. We want our experiences with them to be nice and environment friendly.

I’ve seen large productiveness advantages from the collaboration options and different improvements that include utilizing web-based productiveness functions like Google Sheets as in comparison with their conventional desktop counterparts. Cloud-based Microsoft 365 has turn into extra sturdy in recent times, however its collaborative performance nonetheless has not entirely caught up to in the present day’s calls for.

There are additionally immense productivity-enhancing advantages from studying to make use of these instruments past the elementary stage, as I hope I’ve demonstrated. With tendencies akin to elevated distant collaboration and the necessity to analyze ever-larger knowledge units persevering with, discovering the functionalities that be just right for you is essential, and the enterprise case for evaluating Google Sheets retains getting stronger.

This text has not too long ago undergone a complete replace to include the most recent and most correct info. Feedback under could predate these modifications.

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