Last week, Tomasz Tunguz wrote about The Unbundling Of Excel, which stated that “Excel became the tool for nearly everyone to get stuff done at work.” While, yes, this is true. Excel has its limits and I’d like to add on to this conversation.
Everyone uses Excel, from marketers, data analysts, CSMs, Product Managers to C-level Executives, etc. As a whole, we spend a lot of time working in Excel. Beyond creating and maintaining spreadsheets, we also run reports and analytics too.
While Tunguz’s article expounds on the versatility of Excel from performing calculations, organizing a task list, managing a lightweight CRM and simple dashboarding, etc. Excel still is what it is: a spreadsheet. It has its limits, and you shouldn’t do everything with it.
Spreadsheets are a Grind
Creating a great spreadsheet is hard work. I’m not discounting that. But, digging through data to find insights is hard enough. Just spending a few hours in the same spreadsheet, pouring over the data—it’s exhausting. Even the most complex spreadsheet can make the most seasoned analyst dizzy.
While there are tons of people out there that are highly-proficient in Excel, that’s not all of us. Looking through a spreadsheet, or even performing simple reporting tasks can be taxing on our productivity and eventually lead to wasted efforts in understanding business insights.
There’s a better way to perform data analysis, and it doesn’t involve a spreadsheet.
Bringing Data to Life
In the era of advanced reporting and robust data visualizations, there are tools out there that take spreadsheets out of the equation. Gone are the days of creating rudimentary graphs in Excel. Dashboarding or data visualizations tools inherently exist to visualize data in a simple way.
While spreadsheets are great for certain tasks, it might not be the right one for exploring and analyzing a large amount of data. With a tool that is made to visualize data, your data is transformed for a static cell in Excel to a “living” entity.
Often times, with spreadsheets, it’s a manual process. Updating weekly metrics in a spreadsheet requires a manual update from one database into Excel every time. Analyzing data shouldn’t make you feel like a quant.
Moving forward, Excel isn’t going anywhere. It’s still useful. If Tunguz’s numbers are right, and if Excel has a user population of 300M users - that’s massive. This is just a friendly reminder to think before you run an analysis report in a spreadsheet. Just ask, does it make sense to create a dashboard instead?