The Benefits of Google Sheets vs. Excel

Because it was launched in 1985, Microsoft’s Excel has develop into the go-to spreadsheet program amongst monetary professionals—and, undoubtedly, it stays a strong instrument. There are loads of causes 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 development of the quantity of knowledge companies acquire have modified the best way we work, probably ceaselessly.

Immediately’s collaborative, cloud-based enterprise setting is the place some great benefits of Google Sheets actually stand out. Nonetheless, there are numerous finance and enterprise professionals who’re nonetheless working with Excel spreadsheets in the identical means 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 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 swap from Excel. Consequently, I’ve been utilizing Google Sheets nearly every day since then, changing 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 giant acquisitions, to handle complicated integration tasks, for monetary planning and evaluation, and, fairly often, as a alternative 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 instrument 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matchup of Excel versus Google Sheets; functionalities change so shortly that such an evaluation would develop into out of date inside weeks.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 number of the damaging features 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 out there by way of 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 shortly rise up to hurry and begin seeing tangible advantages.

Straightforward Collaboration

Essentially the most speedy benefit of utilizing Sheets is the skill 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 largely at totally different occasions, in the identical file—to real-time simultaneous collaborative modifying. With asynchronous modifying, you need to use the remark characteristic to alert individuals to questions or considerations and assign them duties that they will mark full after they end them.

Good chips put fast info on the person’s fingertips with out their having to click on out of the doc. For instance, individuals chips establish the individual answerable 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 characteristic, which permits customers to visualize time-associated knowledge, good chips make Sheets a wonderful hub not just for monetary evaluation but additionally as a hub for actions and knowledge, together with all features 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.

Enhancing a spreadsheet stay with different colleagues is a strong means 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 means of working. The a number of cursors in numerous 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 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

If you happen to’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 often. That is effective—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 doable 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 characteristic permits you to see all edits made to a doc by way 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 may 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 characteristic 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 might be effective for small calculations—kind of 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 show under, Google Sheets can capably deal with massive monetary fashions, and it will probably connect with Google BigQuery to investigate big knowledge units.

For instance, while 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 situations based mostly on drivers. If you happen to usually work on M&A, then you probably have a tendency to begin from a template that comprises all the things you want, reminiscent of 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 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 nicely however, because of its model historical past characteristic, 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 knowledge warehouse and analytics engine, which lets you analyze big knowledge units straight in Sheets. BigQuery can home your whole group’s knowledge and make it out there for analytics use, whether or not for evaluation by area specialists reminiscent of finance professionals or for superior machine studying use circumstances led by an information science crew.

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 knowledge units in BigQuery: Chicago taxi journeys. On the time, this contained 195 million rows of knowledge.
  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, reminiscent of 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 connect with public knowledge units, reminiscent of taxi demand in Chicago, in addition to home and analyze their very own proprietary knowledge.

Your complete course of took lower than two minutes.

Except you’re within the taxi enterprise, this explicit knowledge evaluation is probably not very helpful, nevertheless it exhibits how shortly you may 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 may want to tug knowledge from totally different programs into one evaluation—maybe one consolidation system holds higher-level knowledge that must be reconciled in opposition to a number of detailed knowledge sources. If your organization makes the information out there by way of BigQuery, you may, with only a few 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.

You may also create charts and formulation utilizing knowledge from BigQuery knowledge units. If in case you have your whole monetary knowledge in BigQuery, you may develop analyses and studies in a short time.

Connecting to Exterior Knowledge Sources

Having the ability to pull knowledge right into a spreadsheet as a way to work with it’s a basic want for monetary professionals. Google Sheets presents a variety of built-in formulation that do that, such because the Googlefinance method, which helps you to pull knowledge straight from Google Finance. Though not akin to knowledgeable service reminiscent of Bloomberg, it’s however a wonderful 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 mum or dad firm.

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

Connecting to the Whole Google Workspace

Google Apps Script is a strong instrument that opens nearly limitless potentialities not solely to increase and automate workflows in Sheets, but additionally 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 a lot of 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 individuals. 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. Nevertheless, not everyone seems to be offered on its advantages but. And I believe 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 may take full benefit of a number of the options.

Additionally, Google Sheets, like every software program, can have its small annoyances, reminiscent of 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 circumstances, although, these annoyances are primarily an issue for customers nonetheless habituated to Excel quite than a useful weak point of Google Sheets.

One other drawback is that Excel’s success depends on its ecosystem of plugins, a lot of which aren’t (but) out there for Google Sheets. Because of this for those who 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 one of the crucial essential instruments, if not the most essential 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 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 develop into extra strong in recent times, however its collaborative performance nonetheless has not completely caught up to immediately’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 reminiscent of 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 info. Feedback under could predate these adjustments.

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