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, definitely, it stays a robust software. 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 development of the quantity of knowledge companies acquire have modified the way in which we work, probably ceaselessly.

At present’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 still working with Excel spreadsheets in the identical manner that many people discovered 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 shifting 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 nearly every day since then, turning into a self-taught knowledgeable in its performance and revolutionary 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 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 software for automating workflows and lengthening 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matchup of Excel versus Google Sheets; functionalities change so shortly that such an evaluation would turn into out of date inside weeks.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 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 power to deal with extraordinarily massive tasks and knowledge units by way of its integration with BigQuery, and the automation alternatives obtainable 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 essentially the most change-averse finance professionals can shortly rise up to hurry and begin seeing tangible advantages.

Straightforward Collaboration

Probably 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 finest case state of affairs) saved 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 largely at completely different occasions, in the identical file—to real-time simultaneous collaborative modifying. With asynchronous modifying, you should use the remark function to alert individuals to questions or issues and assign them duties that they’ll mark full once they end them.

Smart chips put fast data on the consumer’s fingertips with out their having to click on out of the doc. For instance, individuals chips establish the particular person answerable 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 knowledge, good chips make Sheets a superb hub not just for monetary evaluation but in addition as a hub for actions and data, 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 data and related paperwork with one click on.

Enhancing 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, shifting throughout the display 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 several types of individuals. Not everybody wants to have the ability to edit a spreadsheet, for instance. View- and comment-only choices keep 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 might need developed the behavior of saving recordsdata continuously. That is effective—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 venture, 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 useful 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 possibly can 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 consumer. 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 might be effective for small calculations—kind of 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 massive monetary fashions, and it could connect with Google BigQuery to research big knowledge units.

For instance, if you’re engaged on an M&A venture, one of many many paperwork you’re prone to want is a monetary mannequin to gather all of the related historic monetary knowledge and varied forward-looking situations primarily based on drivers. In the event you typically work on M&A, then you almost certainly have a tendency to start out from a template that accommodates the whole lot you want, resembling standardized monetary statements, valuation calculations, and many others. The present doc then grows over the course of the venture 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 knowledge effectively however, because of 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 Giant Knowledge Units

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

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 related 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, resembling utilizing pink 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 hook up with public knowledge units, resembling taxi demand in Chicago, in addition to home and analyze their very own proprietary knowledge.

Your entire course of took lower than two minutes.

Until you’re within the taxi enterprise, this explicit knowledge evaluation is maybe not very helpful, but it surely reveals how shortly you possibly can analyze massive 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 would possibly want to tug knowledge from completely different programs 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 obtainable by way of BigQuery, you possibly can, with just some clicks, hyperlink every knowledge supply into one spreadsheet and put the related views subsequent to one another. You’ll be able to 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. You probably have your entire monetary knowledge in BigQuery, you possibly can develop analyses and experiences in a short time.

Connecting to Exterior Knowledge Sources

Having the ability to pull knowledge right into a spreadsheet so that you could work with it’s a elementary want for monetary professionals. Google Sheets gives plenty 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 resembling Bloomberg, it’s nonetheless a superb software for acquiring public inventory and foreign money 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 shortly extracts historic inventory worth data for Alphabet, Google’s guardian firm.

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

Connecting to the Total Google Workspace

Google Apps Script is a robust software 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 software 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 a lot of copies of a template reporting spreadsheet, routinely downloaded completely different monetary data from BigQuery into every of them, after which shared every model with completely different individuals. This ensured that varied groups might see solely their very own delicate knowledge, like prices.

Does Google Sheets Have Any Disadvantages?

I’ve been evangelizing Google Sheets. Nevertheless, not everyone seems to be offered on its advantages but. And I believe that’s due to certainly one 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 possibly can take full benefit of a few of the options.

Additionally, Google Sheets, like several software program, can have its small annoyances, resembling a keyboard shortcut or two that aren’t what you’ll count on 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 moderately than a purposeful 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. Which means that in the event 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 some of the 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 1000’s 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 functions 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 now’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 resembling elevated distant collaboration and the necessity to analyze ever-larger knowledge units persevering with, discovering the functionalities that give you the results you want 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 data. Feedback under could predate these modifications.

Additional studying on the Toptal Weblog: