Excel reporting is dead. Welcome to the age of live data dashboards
Microsoft Excel is perhaps the most widely used business tool in the world since 1985. It’s the ideal spreadsheet software for data analysis, and it’s utilized by a wide range of people and enterprises.
The dominance of spreadsheets
Simple spreadsheets can be created by inexperienced Excel users, whereas Excel wizards can design and script dashboards. Because of its simplicity and popularity, Excel is the most used BI application on the market.
When reporting data for larger firms and businesses, however, an Excel dashboard loses its clout.
The magnitude and frequency of data that larger firms demand on a regular basis are too much for a single Excel spreadsheet to handle. Worse, Excel spreadsheets are incapable of conveying real time or up-to-date information.
A dashboard should contain all of the data required for the organization to run, and Microsoft Excel isn’t always up to the task.
Simply said, when a firm grows larger, Excel gets more inefficient and onerous.
Comparing Excel to your first vehicle or house is a good analogy. Both can accommodate a single driver or occupant, but as your family grows, you’ll notice the limits.
A small car isn’t big enough for kids, and a small house can’t comfortably accommodate a large family. Excel is similar in that it works well for small, skilled teams, but most firms will quickly outgrow its utility.
Switching from Excel to business intelligence
Look no further: this article is going to show you how to tell when Excel isn’t sufficient. Let’s start with the top 5 reasons why utilizing Excel as the primary BI tool can be detrimental to your business.
1. Excel has challenges at scale
When reports include more data than Excel was intended to manage, Excel might become sluggish. The size of an Excel document affects the time it takes to load it as well as the time it takes to make any changes to the data inside it. Almost every company today that is constantly gathering data for their sales and marketing departments can easily accumulate data that exceeds Excel’s capabilities.
When this happens, users are more likely to split data into smaller, more manageable chunks or keep many worksheets or workbooks, both of which are nearly difficult to aggregate. This not only makes reporting more difficult, but also takes time away from other important activities. What’s the bottom line? Because it’s so difficult to effectively integrate all of your disparate datasets, you’ll never get a complete picture of your business—whereas seeing the big picture may be straightforward with BI and dashboard reporting software.
2. There is a disagreement about the accuracy of the report and who owns it
For reporting purposes, Excel users often save files locally on their computers. If multiple employees wish to work on the same report, it quickly becomes a challenge to manage versions and data permissions.
This may not appear to be a difficult task—after all, sending files via email is rather simple. Modifications to several of the cell values are unavoidable, and if a file is exchanged and an analyst begins constructing a report, those modifications are difficult to make. When a group of people work on the same report, each person keeps a distinct version of the file, containing slightly different data, resulting in an argument over who has the most up-to-date information. Managing reports with numerous users and versions will give you a headache at best and will give you erroneous data and insights at worst.
3. Manual updates take time and are prone to errors
Adding fields, copying formulas, and changing data values in an Excel file is rarely an easy operation because it can violate pre-set functions. Introducing additional data with a new field (column) usually necessitates the creation of the same field for existing data.
If the analysis is distributed across numerous sheets in a workbook, each sheet is likely to require changes as a result of the added field. When sheets are linked together, adding a category to one of them can be a difficult and time-consuming operation because it’s difficult to know which data is impacted by the addition. Spending effort “cleaning up” data so that it synchronizes correctly is a pointless task that is always subject to error.
4. You won’t be able to compute your KPIs with a single Excel formula
For the most effective KPIs, formulas that reference many dimensions or columns, as well as complicated and nested filters, are required. When calculating KPI outcomes with a straightforward Excel formula becomes impractical, reporting does become a time-consuming, manual process. To put it another way, you’ll need to go beyond Excel’s built-in capability to create useful KPI dashboards.
The more time it takes to build and manage a report, the less often you’ll use the information it gives to establish a strategy. Longer reporting intervals waste time and impede your business from reacting to modification in real-time.
5. Dashboards and reports are uninspiring
While Excel provides data visualization features for small and simple data sets, as the data sets grow larger, the visualizations get static and nearly unpresentable. Even with no-frills charts, badly designed data visualization is not only uninteresting but may also be misleading.
You’re missing out on this area since high-quality data visualization makes it simple to see patterns or shifting trends with a single glance. In fact, it converts a format that the human brain can grasp almost instantly into rows and columns of data that have little significance and require detailed examination.
When do you require an Excel substitute?
How can you tell if an Excel dashboard is nearing the end of its useful life? Apart from avoiding the aforementioned drawbacks of Excel, organizations should be aware of the following warning indicators.
You rely on an Excel expert
It’s a big risk to rely on only one knowledgeable staff member to run Excel reports. Not only does this limit an employee’s output to report generation, but it also means that if they become ill or leave unexpectedly, the company loses their reporting process along with that individual.
Every employee may become a BI expert thanks to dashboards. Each user has a secure account, which they can utilize to work on dashboards together. A dashboard, in essence, gives your entire business the ability to create reports and dashboards.
You require real-time data
Excel’s nature prevents it from reporting current data because it was built to perform point-in-time analysis. When making important decisions, it’s important to have as close to live data as possible.
If you want to monitor the data change and respond in real-time, Excel is no longer useful. The visualization will also look so much better because all of the necessary data will be readily available.
You desire a more secure environment
Excel spreadsheets, as previously stated, are not secure when it comes to data permissions. Anyone with access to the file can easily edit and change any datapoint on the spreadsheet. If you use Excel as your primary BI solution, you run the risk of several employees having access to sensitive information.
Business intelligence tools provide much more advanced functionality when it comes to data governance. Permissions can be placed on an entire dashboard or even on individual rows of data. This functionality allows your organization to steer away from individual reports for each audience, and towards single dashboards that can be permissioned at an individual user level.
You want to make the most of your time
While Excel may still be a powerful tool for some ad-hoc analysis, dashboard tools save time and increase productivity. Users may not only work on the same data from a centralized location, but contributors can also share reports and dashboards with managers and stakeholders in real-time.
Reports can be planned and automated, ensuring that you get data on a regular basis. Specific business intelligence tools can also be used with minimal to no training.
Individuals will also benefit if they can access them via an app that anyone may use at any time and from any location.
As you can see, it doesn’t require a lot of data that is particularly sophisticated to outgrow Excel’s size and breadth. If you can relate to some of the five issues listed above, it’s time to quit Excel in favor of a more powerful business intelligence tool. True business intelligence solutions can handle gigabytes to terabytes of data, establish a single version of the truth from numerous data sources, and present beautiful data visualizations that allow your company to make key decisions in real-time.