Because it was introduced in 1985, Microsoft’s Excel has develop into the go-to spreadsheet program amongst monetary professionals—and, unquestionably, it stays a robust 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 development of the quantity of information companies acquire have modified the best way we work, probably without end.
In the present day’s collaborative, cloud-based enterprise setting 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 realized 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 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 virtually day by day since then, changing into a self-taught skilled in its performance and revolutionary methods of working. I’ve used Google Sheets to construct discounted cash-flow fashions for giant acquisitions, to handle advanced integration tasks, for monetary planning and evaluation, and, fairly often, as a alternative for a whiteboard after I need to sketch one thing in a web based 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 robust device for automating workflows and lengthening Google Sheets’ performance.
I don’t, nonetheless, present a head-to-head function matchup of Excel versus Google Sheets; functionalities change so shortly that such an evaluation would develop into out of date inside weeks.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 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 its integration with BigQuery, and the automation alternatives accessible by Google Apps Script. Whereas Excel and others additionally provide 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.
Essentially the most speedy 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 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 completely 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’ll mark full after they end them.
Smart chips put fast info on the consumer’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 allows customers to visualise time-associated knowledge, sensible chips make Sheets a wonderful hub not just for monetary evaluation but in addition as a hub for actions and knowledge, together with all points of tasks.
Modifying a spreadsheet reside with different colleagues is a robust approach 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 outstanding sight in comparison with the outdated approach of working. The a number of cursors in several colours, shifting 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 individuals. Not everybody wants to have the ability to edit a spreadsheet, for instance. View- and comment-only choices preserve safety and knowledge 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 might need developed the behavior of saving recordsdata steadily. 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 identify, chaos can ensue.
Google Workspace makes it attainable to have only one file all through the lifetime of the undertaking, because of its built-in model monitoring. Accessible by “See model historical past” within the menu, this function lets you see all edits made to a doc by a helpful timeline. It additionally consists of 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 may choose “Present edit historical past” and click on again by every edit to see who modified it, when, and to which worth.
This function is offered 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 after we adopted Sheets was that it might be high-quality 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 software. As I exhibit under, Google Sheets can capably deal with massive monetary fashions, and it will probably hook up with Google BigQuery to research big knowledge units.
For instance, while 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 knowledge and numerous forward-looking situations primarily based on drivers. Should you usually work on M&A, then you probably have a tendency to begin from a template that comprises all the pieces you want, comparable to standardized monetary statements, valuation calculations, and many others. 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 assorted situations for monetary projections.
Over the course of a number of months, the file can develop to dozens of tabs with a posh internet of hyperlinks between them. Sheets not solely handles the big quantity of interconnected knowledge properly however, because of 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 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 whole group’s knowledge and make it accessible for analytics use, whether or not for evaluation by area consultants comparable to finance professionals or for superior machine studying use circumstances led by an information science crew.
To exhibit the ability of this course of, I as soon as used the next instance in a Sheets coaching session at work:
- 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 information.
- Then I created a pivot table from the complete knowledge, with the time of day and day of week on the 2 axes, and the variety of journeys as values.
- Lastly, I utilized conditional formatting, comparable to utilizing crimson to symbolize peak hours, to make the patterns stand out extra clearly.
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, nevertheless it reveals how shortly you may analyze massive knowledge units utilizing the mixture 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 tug knowledge from completely different methods 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 info accessible by BigQuery, you may, 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 whole monetary knowledge in BigQuery, you may develop analyses and stories 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 a lot 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 comparable 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:
There are additionally different, extra normal methods to get knowledge from the online. The performance to extract an HTML desk or listing immediately from an internet site can, for instance, be helpful with monetary, market, or different publicly accessible info that you just need to retrieve and work with.
Connecting to the Whole Google Workspace
Google Apps Script is a robust device that opens virtually limitless prospects not solely to increase and automate workflows in Sheets, but in addition 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 completely different monetary info from BigQuery into every of them, after which shared every model with completely different folks. This ensured that numerous groups might see solely their very own delicate knowledge, 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 considered one of Sheets’ drawbacks: Lots 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 may take full benefit of a number of the options.
Additionally, Google Sheets, like every software program, can have its small annoyances, comparable 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 circumstances, although, these annoyances are primarily an issue for customers nonetheless habituated to Excel slightly than a purposeful weak spot of Google Sheets.
One other downside is that Excel’s success depends on its ecosystem of plugins, lots of which aren’t (but) accessible for Google Sheets. Because of this if you happen to can’t replicate what you want with Google Apps Script, utilizing Sheets means it’s possible you’ll must toggle between each purposes.
Enhanced Collaboration Wins Out
Spreadsheets are probably the most 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 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 strong in recent times, however its collaborative performance nonetheless has not entirely caught up to at this time’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 tendencies comparable to 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 lately undergone a complete replace to include the most recent and most correct info. Feedback under might predate these adjustments.