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, unquestionably, it stays a strong device. There are plenty of reasons why it’s retained its recognition for many years. However the rise in cloud computing, particularly because the starting of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the exponential progress of the quantity of information companies gather have modified the best way we work, presumably perpetually.

As we speak’s collaborative, cloud-based enterprise setting is the place the benefits of Google Sheets actually stand out. Nonetheless, there are numerous 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 information analytics took the numerous step of transferring all of its 11,000 staff to Google’s G Suite, now Google Workspace—becoming a member of the rising variety of corporations making the switch from Excel. Consequently, I’ve been utilizing Google Sheets virtually each day since then, turning into a self-taught knowledgeable in its performance and modern methods of working. I’ve used Google Sheets to construct discounted cash-flow fashions for big acquisitions, to handle advanced integration initiatives, for monetary planning and evaluation, and, fairly often, as a substitute for a whiteboard after I need 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 strong device 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matchup of Excel versus Google Sheets; functionalities change so rapidly that such an evaluation would turn into out of date inside weeks. As an alternative, I concentrate on 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 unfavorable points of creating the shift from Microsoft.

The Benefits of Google Sheets

The primary benefits Google Sheets has over Excel are seamless collaborative performance, the flexibility to deal with extraordinarily giant initiatives and information units by its integration with BigQuery, and the automation alternatives obtainable by 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 rapidly stand up to hurry and begin seeing tangible advantages.

Straightforward Collaboration

Essentially the most fast benefit of utilizing Sheets is the ability to collaborate seamlessly. Within the outdated 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 modifying. With asynchronous modifying, you should use the remark characteristic to alert folks to questions or considerations and assign them duties that they will mark full once they end them.

Smart chips put fast data on the person’s fingertips with out their having to click on out of the doc. For instance, folks chips determine the particular person liable for particular duties and supply a hyperlink to their contact data, 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 information, good chips make Sheets a wonderful hub not just for monetary evaluation but additionally as a hub for actions and data, 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 good chips make it simple for customers to entry contact data and related paperwork with one click on.

Enhancing a spreadsheet reside with different colleagues is a strong manner of working. The productiveness of two or three people who find themselves all extremely expert with Google Sheets rapidly constructing out a monetary or working mannequin collectively in actual time is a exceptional sight in comparison with the outdated manner of working. The a number of cursors in several 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 information integrity whereas granting visibility to those that want it.

Constructed-in Model Management

Should 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 fantastic—if cumbersome—for one particular person working alone, however when a number of variations of a file start to flow into amongst colleagues and somebody forgets to replace the file title, chaos can ensue.

Google Workspace makes it doable to have only one file all through the lifetime of the challenge, because of its built-in model monitoring. Accessible by “See model historical past” within the menu, this characteristic means that you can see all edits made to a doc by a helpful timeline. It additionally contains the title of the one that made every change. Each alteration is saved and you’ll “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 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 after we adopted Sheets was that it could be fantastic for small calculations—roughly like a complicated calculator—however not helpful for bigger fashions or information units. However because it seems, Google Sheets is simply as highly effective as a desktop software. As I show under, Google Sheets can capably deal with giant monetary fashions, and it could possibly connect with Google BigQuery to investigate large information units.

For instance, once 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 information and varied forward-looking eventualities based mostly on drivers. Should you typically work on M&A, then you almost certainly have a tendency to begin from a template that comprises all the pieces you want, equivalent to standardized monetary statements, valuation calculations, and many others. 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 fancy net of hyperlinks between them. Sheets not solely handles the big quantity of interconnected information properly 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 Knowledge Units

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

To show 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 information units in BigQuery: Chicago taxi journeys. On the time, this contained 195 million rows of information.
  2. Then I created a pivot table from the complete information, 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, equivalent to utilizing crimson to symbolize 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 information units, equivalent to taxi demand in Chicago, in addition to home and analyze their very own proprietary information.

All the course of took lower than two minutes.

Except you’re within the taxi enterprise, this explicit information evaluation is maybe not very helpful, nevertheless it reveals how rapidly you may analyze giant information 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 information from completely different techniques into one evaluation—maybe one consolidation system holds higher-level information that must be reconciled towards a number of detailed information sources. If your organization makes the information obtainable by BigQuery, you may, with only a few clicks, hyperlink every information supply into one spreadsheet and put the related views subsequent to one another. You may then rapidly carry out typical spreadsheet calculations proper subsequent to—and utilizing information from—your BigQuery-powered pivot tables or extracts.

You may also create charts and formulation utilizing information from BigQuery information units. In case you have your entire monetary information in BigQuery, you may develop analyses and reviews in a short time.

Connecting to Exterior Knowledge Sources

With the ability to pull information right into a spreadsheet so to work with it’s a basic want for monetary professionals. Google Sheets provides quite a few built-in formulation that do that, such because the Googlefinance formula, which helps you to pull information immediately from Google Finance. Though not akin to an expert service equivalent to Bloomberg, it’s nonetheless a wonderful device for acquiring public inventory and forex data, 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 components rapidly extracts historic inventory value data for Alphabet, Google’s guardian firm.

There are additionally different, extra normal methods to get information from the net. The performance to extract an HTML desk or checklist immediately from an internet site can, for instance, be helpful with monetary, market, or different publicly obtainable data that you just need to retrieve and work with.

Connecting to the Whole Google Workspace

Google Apps Script is a strong device that opens virtually limitless potentialities not solely to increase and automate workflows in Sheets, but additionally to attach it with different elements of Google Workspace. This automation device seamlessly connects Sheets, Drive, and BigQuery operations into one workflow. I’ve quite a few examples at work the place we have now used Apps Script to create numerous copies of a template reporting spreadsheet, robotically downloaded completely different monetary data 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 information, like prices.

Does Google Sheets Have Any Disadvantages?

I’ve been evangelizing Google Sheets. Nevertheless, not everyone seems to be bought on its advantages but. And I believe that’s due to one among Sheets’ drawbacks: Lots of its advantages depend upon 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 every software program, can have its small annoyances, equivalent to a keyboard shortcut or two that aren’t what you’d count on 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 somewhat than a useful weak point of Google Sheets.

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

Enhanced Collaboration Wins Out

Spreadsheets are one of the vital essential instruments, if not the most essential device, 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 purposes like Google Sheets as in comparison with their conventional desktop counterparts. Cloud-based Microsoft 365 has turn into extra strong lately, however its collaborative performance nonetheless has not entirely caught up to right this moment’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 developments equivalent to elevated distant collaboration and the necessity to analyze ever-larger information 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 lately undergone a complete replace to include the most recent and most correct data. Feedback under might predate these modifications.

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