The Benefits of Google Sheets vs. Excel

Because it was introduced in 1985, Microsoft’s Excel has change into the go-to spreadsheet program amongst monetary professionals—and, indisputably, 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 because the starting of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the exponential progress of the quantity of knowledge companies accumulate have modified the way in which we work, presumably eternally.

Immediately’s collaborative, cloud-based enterprise atmosphere 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 approach 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 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 advanced integration initiatives, for monetary planning and evaluation, and, fairly often, as a alternative for a whiteboard once I need to sketch one thing in a web-based assembly.

On this article, I share among 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 lengthening 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matchup of Excel versus Google Sheets; functionalities change so rapidly that such an evaluation would change into out of date inside weeks. As an alternative, 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 among the damaging features 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 initiatives and information units by means of its integration with BigQuery, and the automation alternatives out there by means 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 rapidly rise up to hurry and begin seeing tangible advantages.

Straightforward Collaboration

Probably the most quick 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 situation) 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 largely at totally different instances, in the identical file—to real-time simultaneous collaborative enhancing. With asynchronous enhancing, you should use the remark function 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 establish the individual 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 permits customers to visualise time-associated information, sensible chips make Sheets a superb hub not just for monetary evaluation but additionally as a hub for actions and knowledge, together with all features 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 data and related paperwork with one click on.

Enhancing a spreadsheet dwell with different colleagues is a strong approach 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 previous approach of working. The a number of cursors in several 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 members. 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

Should you’ve ever had the painful expertise of a spreadsheet crash past restoration that ends in hours of misplaced work, you may need developed the behavior of saving information continuously. That is high-quality—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 title, chaos can ensue.

Google Workspace makes it potential to have only one file all through the lifetime of the undertaking, due to its built-in model monitoring. Accessible by means of “See model historical past” within the menu, this function means that you can see all edits made to a doc by means of a useful timeline. It additionally contains the title of the one who 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 means 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 once we adopted Sheets was that it might be high-quality for small calculations—kind of like a sophisticated 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 display under, Google Sheets can capably deal with massive monetary fashions, and it may connect with Google BigQuery to investigate large information units.

For instance, whenever you’re engaged on an M&A undertaking, 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 eventualities primarily based on drivers. Should you usually work on M&A, then you probably have a tendency to begin from a template that incorporates all the things you want, comparable 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 help 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 internet of hyperlinks between them. Sheets not solely handles the massive quantity of interconnected information effectively however, due to its model historical past function, you’ll by no means once more yell “Who modified the low cost price?!” when your valuation mannequin output is unexpectedly off.

Analyzing Very Massive 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 instantly in Sheets. BigQuery can home your whole group’s information and make it out there for analytics use, whether or not for evaluation by area specialists comparable to finance professionals or for superior machine studying use circumstances led by a knowledge science crew.

To display 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 knowledge.
  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, comparable to 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 connect with public information units, comparable to taxi demand in Chicago, in addition to home and analyze their very own proprietary information.

Your complete course of took lower than two minutes.

Until you’re within the taxi enterprise, this specific information evaluation is maybe not very helpful, however it exhibits how rapidly you possibly can analyze massive information 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 drag information from totally different methods 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 out there by means of BigQuery, you possibly can, with just some clicks, hyperlink every information supply into one spreadsheet and put the related views subsequent to one another. You possibly can then rapidly carry out typical spreadsheet calculations proper subsequent to—and utilizing information from—your BigQuery-powered pivot tables or extracts.

You may as well create charts and formulation utilizing information from BigQuery information units. In case you have your whole monetary information in BigQuery, you possibly can develop analyses and studies in a short time.

Connecting to Exterior Knowledge Sources

Having the ability to pull information right into a spreadsheet so as to work with it’s a elementary want for monetary professionals. Google Sheets provides a variety 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 comparable to Bloomberg, it’s nonetheless a superb device 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 method rapidly extracts historic inventory value data for Alphabet, Google’s father or mother firm.

There are additionally different, extra basic methods to get information from the online. The performance to extract an HTML desk or checklist instantly from an internet site can, for instance, be helpful with monetary, market, or different publicly out there 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 nearly 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’ve got used Apps Script to create a lot of copies of a template reporting spreadsheet, robotically downloaded totally different monetary data 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. Nonetheless, not everyone seems to be bought on its advantages but. And I feel that’s due to one in all 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 possibly can take full benefit of among the options.

Additionally, Google Sheets, like all software program, can have its small annoyances, comparable to a keyboard shortcut or two that aren’t what you’d 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 slightly than a practical weak spot of Google Sheets.

One other downside is that Excel’s success depends on its ecosystem of plugins, a lot 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 it’s possible you’ll have to toggle between each functions.

Enhanced Collaboration Wins Out

Spreadsheets are one of the vital 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 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 change into extra sturdy in recent times, 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 comparable 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 data. Feedback under might predate these adjustments.

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