The Benefits of Google Sheets vs. Excel

Because it was introduced in 1985, Microsoft’s Excel has develop into the go-to spreadsheet program amongst monetary professionals—and, definitely, it stays a strong device. There are plenty of reasons why it’s retained its reputation for many years. However the rise in cloud computing, particularly for the reason that starting of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the exponential development of the quantity of information companies gather have modified the best way we work, probably endlessly.

In the present day’s collaborative, cloud-based enterprise surroundings is the place some great 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 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 companies making the switch from Excel. Consequently, I’ve been utilizing Google Sheets nearly day by day since then, turning 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 big acquisitions, to handle complicated integration tasks, for monetary planning and evaluation, and, fairly often, as a alternative for a whiteboard once 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 strong device 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matchup of Excel versus Google Sheets; functionalities change so rapidly that such an evaluation would develop into out of date inside weeks. As a substitute, I give attention to 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 unfavourable elements of creating the shift from Microsoft.

The Benefits of Google Sheets

The principle benefits Google Sheets has over Excel are seamless collaborative performance, the flexibility to deal with extraordinarily massive tasks and information units via its integration with BigQuery, and the automation alternatives accessible via Google Apps Script. Whereas Excel and others additionally provide 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 instant benefit of utilizing Sheets is the ability to collaborate seamlessly. Within the previous model of working, you’d use a grasp file that somebody needed to “personal,” which was (in a greatest case state of affairs) stored in a shared community folder or painstakingly emailed backwards and forwards amongst customers.

In distinction, Sheets incorporates a number of modes of collaborating, starting from the asynchronous—when collaborators work independently and principally at totally different occasions, in the identical file—to real-time simultaneous collaborative modifying. With asynchronous modifying, you should utilize the remark function to alert folks to questions or considerations and assign them duties that they will mark full after 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 determine the individual accountable 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 permits customers to visualise time-associated information, sensible chips make Sheets a wonderful hub not just for monetary evaluation but additionally as a hub for actions and data, together with all elements 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 sensible chips make it straightforward for customers to entry contact info and related paperwork with one click on.

Enhancing a spreadsheet stay 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 outstanding sight in comparison with the previous manner of working. The a number of cursors in several colours, transferring throughout the display screen on the identical 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 contributors. Not everybody wants to have the ability to edit a spreadsheet, for instance. View- and comment-only choices keep safety and information 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 ceaselessly. That is fantastic—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 mission, due to its built-in model monitoring. Accessible via “See model historical past” within the menu, this function permits you to see all edits made to a doc via a useful timeline. It additionally contains the identify 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’ll be able to choose “Present edit historical past” and click on again via every edit to see who modified it, when, and to which worth.

This function is out there 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 utility. As I reveal beneath, Google Sheets can capably deal with massive monetary fashions, and it may well hook up with Google BigQuery to research big information units.

For instance, once you’re engaged on an M&A mission, one of many many paperwork you’re prone to want is a monetary mannequin to gather all of the related historic monetary information and numerous forward-looking situations based mostly on drivers. In the event you typically work on M&A, then you almost certainly have a tendency to begin from a template that comprises every part you want, corresponding to standardized monetary statements, valuation calculations, and many others. The present doc then grows over the course of the mission to include monetary and tax due diligence changes into the historic financials, utilizing business/market due diligence to assist the varied situations for monetary projections.

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

Analyzing Very Massive Information Units

As I discussed, Google Sheets connects to Google BigQuery, Google Cloud’s information warehouse and analytics engine, which lets you analyze big information units instantly in Sheets. BigQuery can home your whole group’s information and make it accessible for analytics use, whether or not for evaluation by area consultants corresponding 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 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, corresponding to utilizing pink 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, corresponding to taxi demand in Chicago, in addition to home and analyze their very own proprietary information.

The whole course of took lower than two minutes.

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

To supply one other instance of Sheets pivot desk utilization, a finance skilled would possibly want to drag information from totally different techniques into one evaluation—maybe one consolidation system holds higher-level information that must be reconciled in opposition to a number of detailed information sources. If your organization makes the information accessible via BigQuery, you’ll be able to, with just some clicks, hyperlink every information supply into one spreadsheet and put the related views subsequent to one another. You’ll be able to 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. When you have your whole monetary information in BigQuery, you’ll be able to develop analyses and reviews in a short time.

Connecting to Exterior Information Sources

Having the ability to pull information right into a spreadsheet to be able to work with it’s a basic want for monetary professionals. Google Sheets gives a lot of built-in formulation that do that, such because the Googlefinance formula, which helps you to pull information instantly from Google Finance. Though not corresponding to knowledgeable service corresponding to Bloomberg, it’s however a wonderful device 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 method rapidly extracts historic inventory worth info for Alphabet, Google’s dad or mum firm.

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

Connecting to the Whole Google Workspace

Google Apps Script is a strong device that opens nearly limitless prospects not solely to increase and automate workflows in Sheets, but additionally to attach it with different components 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, routinely downloaded totally different monetary info from BigQuery into every of them, after which shared every model with totally different folks. This ensured that numerous 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 feel that’s due to one among 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 several software program, can have its small annoyances, corresponding to a keyboard shortcut or two that aren’t what you’ll count on or a function 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 spot of Google Sheets.

One other drawback is that Excel’s success depends on its ecosystem of plugins, a lot of which aren’t (but) accessible for Google Sheets. Because of this in the event you can’t replicate what you want with Google Apps Script, utilizing Sheets means you could have to toggle between each purposes.

Enhanced Collaboration Wins Out

Spreadsheets are some of the vital instruments, if not the most vital 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 big 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 develop into extra sturdy lately, however its collaborative performance nonetheless has not entirely caught up to as we speak’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 developments corresponding 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 newest and most correct info. Feedback beneath could predate these adjustments.

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