Why Excel Spreadsheets are Actually the Worst

My name is Steve Sales Manager and I hate Excel spreadsheets.

For years, I used spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel for almost all of my sales management needs. Sales activity metrics, bookings results, accounting information – I exported it all from my Salesforce.com CRM or Quickbooks into Excel and tried to make some sense of it all.

And it was great for a while! With the right VLOOKUPs and shortcuts, I could navigate my way around Excel pretty well. Sure, there was a lot to sort through but hey, nobody ever said that sales reports could be produced with just one click, right? Plus it gave me pie charts! What more could a sales manager need in terms of sales analysis?

As it turns out, a lot. I soon discovered that spreadsheets were actually ruining my life.

For starters, did you ever notice how many errors were in your Excel spreadsheets?

Well, I did! It turns out, one incorrectly entered piece of data could spawn a domino effect and cause all sorts of serious problems. One quarter, our spreadsheet analysis projected that our sales forecast would be 3x what it ended up being. Imagine my embarrassment when I had to explain that gaffe to our CEO.

And it’s not just me. According to recent research, more than 88% of spreadsheets contain errors. Even the United States Census Bureau feels the impact of bad spreadsheets. The group recently published a blog post discussing how small errors in data quality can have huge impacts on population analysis.

I could go on and on about why Excel spreadsheets were the bane of my existence. Some things that really grind my gears about Excel:

  • How time consuming the whole process is. I’m trying to store all this data in massive Excel files, each with dozens of tabs. I ended up spending 90% of my time just preparing the data for analysis and not nearly enough time on the actual analysis itself.

  • I need more than just ad-hoc analysis from my spreadsheets. It’s fine if I just want an an answer once…but what happens when I need to update the spreadsheet each week? I discovered that the data had to be exported, imported and recalculated each time. No thanks!

  • I couldn’t share my spreadsheet easily with others, making for poor collaboration. I could email them…except my spreadsheets were usually larger than email attachment size limits. I could print them out…but how many trees is that going to kill? Also, sharing my master copy meant running the risk that someone would break a formula or enter unclean data.

  • I couldn’t drill down into my spreadsheets. The analysis was very surface-level and didn’t provide me with the full picture or all the answers that I would expect for my business intelligence needs. Without a drill-down capability that allows for filters and pivots, what am I really getting? More questions, that’s what.

  • Finally, Excel spreadsheets are just plain ugly! These spreadsheets and graphs are so visually unappealing and unwieldy that I could never convince my team to read or analyze them.

I have to stop there – just thinking about why spreadsheets are the worst is making my blood boil.

Fortunately, I soon found my saving grace – InsightSquared. Their business intelligence software was easy to navigate, pulled directly from my data and automatically updated so I never had to worry about data quality, featured hundreds of reports that allowed me drill down and visually, it looks great! They literally solved all the issues I had with Excel:

I was in a dark place for a while, lost in a sea of Excel spreadsheets. Once I found InsightSquared, I knew that I could live a spreadsheet-free life, while still getting all the business intelligence analysis I needed.

Eliminating the barrier of Excel spreadsheets was the best thing I ever did for myself.