The Excel reporting era is coming to an end. Is your business ready for the next challenge?

I bet you have heard about Big Data. We have entered a new age in which more and more companies are adopting data and seeing the value and importance of data-driven decisions. And we are not just talking marketing decisions or business intelligence. Different areas of business are affected, ranging from market and customer research to internal HR analytics. 

Are you still using Excel for your data processing and visualisation? Please take this the right way - Excel is a great tool but it is not ready (maybe not just yet?) for Big Data business and from this perspective, it is a bit outdated. Do you remember an old joke when an interviewer wants to know how single-mindedly determined the candidate is and hires him immediately when he hears the candidate's answer: I have seen the end of an Excel spreadsheet.
Big Data is called big because it is big. Very big. And it is getting even bigger! Classical tools like Excel are simply not built for such an amount of data.

Most people get confused around spreadsheets and don't like them

For some reason, Excel has a bad reputation among people who do not use it daily. The interface keeps changing, it is sometimes overwhelming , there is a talk of macro-viruses; and email clients like Outlook may even block Excel attachments. Many people won't even open an Excel attachment let alone analyse it and find insights!

Insights are hidden

It is difficult to interpret what's important and what's not in Excel because you are presented with a subset of data. Visualization is great but if it only presents one tree - you have no way to compare it to the forest.

Spreadsheets are not designed for historical data

While you are not really losing historical data, once you choose not to include it in a spreadsheet you effectively have lost it for the analysis you are trying to perform.

Collaboration is almost impossible

Have you tried working on an Excel spreadsheet together with your colleagues? Even the cloud-based versions of a spreadsheet are always a trade-off between features and collaboration.

Sharing with multiple recipients

Sharing with multiple recipients can be challenging, especially if some of them weren't able to re-request the report if it wasn't delivered.

The data may become outdated

In many cases, a spreadsheet will have a static dataset which is the opposite of a live or real-time one. In practice, the report gets emailed once a week, increasing the chances of it being lost or ignored.

Nowadays, tools like Qlik, Tableau, Microsoft Power BI offer improved data visualisation and processing. Google has announced a free version of Data Studio 360 suitable for small to medium sized companies. These tools are mostly easy to use, allow creation of real-time and "live" reports and sharing the report and data is very effective. These cloud-based tools also solve the problem of communicating insights very effectively.

My view is that the global shift from using spreadsheets to cloud-based, big data ready, cloud visualisation platforms is already in full flow and we are entering a brand-new era! Is your business ready for the next challenge? I will be returning to this topic shortly, meanwhile please refer to my other recent posts on the emerging value of Google Data Studio as a big data tool.

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