The Benefits of Google Sheets vs. Excel

Because it was launched in 1985, Microsoft’s Excel has turn into the go-to spreadsheet program amongst monetary professionals—and, unquestionably, it stays a robust instrument. There are loads of causes why it’s retained its recognition for many years. However the rise in cloud computing, particularly for the reason that starting of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the exponential progress of the quantity of information companies gather have modified the way in which we work, presumably eternally.

In the present day’s collaborative, cloud-based enterprise atmosphere is the place some great benefits of Google Sheets actually stand out. Nonetheless, there are various finance and enterprise professionals who’re nonetheless 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 economic 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 change from Excel. Consequently, I’ve been utilizing Google Sheets nearly each day since then, changing into a self-taught professional in its performance and modern methods of working. I’ve used Google Sheets to construct discounted cash-flow fashions for giant acquisitions, to handle complicated integration tasks, for monetary planning and evaluation, and, fairly often, as a substitute for a whiteboard after I wish to sketch one thing in a web-based assembly.

On this article, I share a few 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 instrument for automating workflows and increasing Google Sheets’ performance.

I don’t, nevertheless, present a head-to-head function matchup of Excel versus Google Sheets; functionalities change so shortly that such an evaluation would turn into out of date inside weeks.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 few of the adverse points of constructing the shift from Microsoft.

The Benefits of Google Sheets

The principle benefits Google Sheets has over Excel are seamless collaborative performance, the power to deal with extraordinarily massive tasks and knowledge units by way of its integration with BigQuery, and the automation alternatives out there by way of Google Apps Script. Whereas Excel and others additionally supply these capabilities, Google has made them so intuitive and end-user-friendly that even probably the most change-averse finance professionals can shortly rise up to hurry and begin seeing tangible advantages.

Straightforward Collaboration

Essentially the most rapid benefit of utilizing Sheets is the potential to collaborate seamlessly. Within the outdated model of working, you’d use a grasp file that somebody needed to “personal,” which was (in a finest case state of affairs) saved 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 modifying. With asynchronous modifying, you need to use the remark function to alert folks to questions or considerations and assign them duties that they will mark full once they end them.

Sensible chips put fast info on the person’s fingertips with out their having to click on out of the doc. For instance, folks chips determine 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 function, which permits customers to visualize time-associated knowledge, good chips make Sheets a superb hub not just for monetary evaluation but in addition as a hub for actions and knowledge, together with all points of tasks.

A finance project task list featuring smart chips for assignees and relevant documents. The author’s chip is expanded, showing his contact information.
Google good chips make it straightforward 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 outstanding sight in comparison with the outdated manner of working. The a number of cursors in numerous colours, transferring throughout the display on the similar time to construct a mannequin, look nearly like a time-lapse video of a portray being created.

There’s additionally room for various kinds of individuals. 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 the event 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 continuously. 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 potential to have only one file all through the lifetime of the undertaking, because of its built-in model monitoring. Accessible by way of “See model historical past” within the menu, this function lets you see all edits made to a doc by way of a helpful timeline. It additionally consists of 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’ll be able to choose “Present edit historical past” and click on again by way of every edit to see who modified it, when, and to which worth.

This function is obtainable 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 after we adopted Sheets was that it could be nice for small calculations—roughly like a sophisticated calculator—however not helpful for bigger fashions or knowledge units. However because it seems, Google Sheets is simply as highly effective as a desktop software. As I reveal under, Google Sheets can capably deal with massive monetary fashions, and it might probably hook up with Google BigQuery to investigate large knowledge units.

For instance, if you’re engaged on an M&A undertaking, one of many many paperwork you’re more likely to want is a monetary mannequin to gather all of the related historic monetary knowledge and varied forward-looking eventualities based mostly on drivers. In the event you usually work on M&A, then you probably have a tendency to start out from a template that comprises every little thing you want, similar to standardized monetary statements, valuation calculations, and so on. The present doc then grows over the course of the undertaking to include monetary and tax due diligence changes into the historic financials, utilizing industrial/market due diligence to assist the varied eventualities for monetary projections.

Over the course of a number of months, the file can develop to dozens of tabs with a fancy net of hyperlinks between them. Sheets not solely handles the big quantity of interconnected knowledge nicely however, because of its model historical past function, 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 Knowledge 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 out there for analytics use, whether or not for evaluation by area consultants similar to finance professionals or for superior machine studying use circumstances led by an information science group.

To reveal the facility 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 information.
  2. Then I created a pivot desk 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, similar to utilizing pink to characterize 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 hook up with public knowledge units, similar to taxi demand in Chicago, in addition to home and analyze their very own proprietary knowledge.

Your complete course of took lower than two minutes.

Until you’re within the taxi enterprise, this specific knowledge evaluation is probably not very helpful, however it reveals how shortly you’ll be able to analyze massive knowledge units utilizing the mix of BigQuery and Sheets to successfully acquire and talk insights.

To supply one other instance of Sheets pivot desk utilization, a finance skilled would possibly want to tug knowledge from completely different methods into one evaluation—maybe one consolidation system holds higher-level knowledge that must be reconciled towards a number of detailed knowledge sources. If your organization makes the info out there by way of BigQuery, you’ll be able to, with only a few clicks, hyperlink every knowledge supply into one spreadsheet and put the related views subsequent to one another. You possibly can then shortly carry out typical spreadsheet calculations proper subsequent to—and utilizing knowledge from—your BigQuery-powered pivot tables or extracts.

It’s also possible to create charts and formulation utilizing knowledge from BigQuery knowledge units. When you’ve got all your monetary knowledge in BigQuery, you’ll be able to develop analyses and stories in a short time.

Connecting to Exterior Knowledge Sources

Having the ability to pull knowledge right into a spreadsheet to be able to work with it’s a basic want for monetary professionals. Google Sheets affords a lot of built-in formulation that do that, such because the Googlefinance method, which helps you to pull knowledge immediately from Google Finance. Though not corresponding to an expert service similar to Bloomberg, it’s nonetheless a superb instrument for acquiring public inventory and foreign money 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 method shortly extracts historic inventory worth info for Alphabet, Google’s mother or father firm.

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

Connecting to the Total Google Workspace

Google Apps Script is a robust instrument that opens nearly limitless potentialities not solely to increase and automate workflows in Sheets, but in addition to attach it with different components of Google Workspace. This automation instrument seamlessly connects Sheets, Drive, and BigQuery operations into one workflow. I’ve quite a few examples at work the place we now have used Apps Script to create numerous copies of a template reporting spreadsheet, routinely downloaded completely different monetary info from BigQuery into every of them, after which shared every model with completely different folks. This ensured that varied 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 bought on its advantages but. And I feel that’s due to considered one of Sheets’ drawbacks: A lot of its advantages rely upon collaboration with others, and also you’ll discover that uneven adoption in your group will place limits on how briskly you’ll be able to take full benefit of a few of the options.

Additionally, Google Sheets, like all software program, can have its small annoyances, similar to a keyboard shortcut or two that aren’t what you’d anticipate or a function that’s lacking or doesn’t behave the way in which you need. In lots of circumstances, although, these annoyances are primarily an issue for customers nonetheless habituated to Excel slightly than a practical weak spot of Google Sheets.

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

Enhanced Collaboration Wins Out

Spreadsheets are one of the vital vital instruments, if not the most vital instrument, 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 1000’s of hours utilizing them. We’d like 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 strong in recent times, however its collaborative performance nonetheless has not totally caught up to at this time’s calls for.

There are additionally immense productivity-enhancing advantages from studying to make use of these instruments past the elementary degree, as I hope I’ve demonstrated. With tendencies similar 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 just lately undergone a complete replace to include the most recent and most correct info. Feedback under could predate these modifications.

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