Data Storytelling

Why the Age of Excel Reporting is Over

Published on Mar 12, 2017 18:30 PM

While millions of people the world over use Excel, it is probably time to put it to bed when it comes to reports. Many loyal users claim that organizing data on it is simple, thus making it the most frequently used reporting tool, but with the velocity of data today, Excel just doesn’t cut it anymore. What happens when you have to deal with big data in real-time? 

Do you really believe that you’re able to get the full picture of your business? As more businesses shift from Excel and implement dedicated reporting software to meet more advanced needs, are you still manually wrangling data and poring over rows of Excel, only to produce a report that might have been relevant yesterday?

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Here are 3 major reasons why you should break up with Excel and move on to other reporting software:

1. It’s slow

Technology is moving at an alarming rate, which means that data is growing at an equally fast rate as well. Forward thinking companies have long been actively collecting data for their various departments – from sales and marketing to even HR. Naturally, this means that data gets accumulated beyond the capacity that Excel was designed for, and size impacts its functionality. So expect sluggish load times. Of course, there are those who counter this by breaking up their data into smaller, bite-sized pieces, i.e. multiple workbooks or worksheets. But where is the connectivity? How does the data relate to each other? If your data is scattered, no one really has an overview of the business, which brings us to the next point.

2. It’s inaccurate

As mentioned earlier, your data is growing at a rate that is impossible to humanly keep up with. In theory, updating Excel sounds relatively straightforward – adding fields / columns / rows, copying and pasting formulas, etc. There are even pre-set functions to help even the most inexperienced with Excel. However, changes to data (or cell values) will happen, and the minute someone accidentally makes a mistake by copying the wrong formula or entering the wrong value, things go haywire. Uniform changes are hard to implement, especially when more than one person is working on the file, which also makes it hard to discern who has the latest and most “correct” version. Often, large Excel reports are time consuming to do, and riddled with errors, resulting in a huge wasted opportunity as you are unable to make better decisions with incorrect data. Sure, someone could be put in charge of “cleaning up” the data, but as with anything manual, it is still a time consuming and fallible job, rendering it pointless.

3. It’s boring and backward

AI has accelerated by leaps and bounds, and one of the major ways it helps businesses is by doing the “grunt” work such as data wrangling and cleaning. There really is no excuse for teams to keep entering data and formulas laboriously when all of it can be handled by AI in half the time and with more accuracy. Technology has arrived to save the day so you can focus on more important things such as your business strategies.

There is one fundamentally human thing that we can’t get away from, and that’s our visual nature. The brain reacts to visuals / images much better than rows of numbers. Again, loyal users counter by saying that Excel allows basic visualizations like charts and graphs, but that’s exactly what they are – basic. No one wants to look at these anymore. As an audience, we demand something more.

The Future is Telling

Storytelling that is. You often hear people talk about data storytelling, and this is where context meets narrative and gets presented in great visualizations.  

Read more about: Dashboard Dinosaurs vs. Next Gen Analytics

 To put it quite simply, your KPIs cannot be calculated with just one Excel formula. The best KPIs require complex formulas that reference several data points and rows, which lead to that dreaded time-consuming, manual exercise known as data-wrangling. This kicks off a detrimental domino effect within your organization – because it takes so long to build a report thanks to the manual work involved, your data becomes old. Old data is generally useless in terms of providing insights that will help build a better, more solid strategy for your business. What’s required are real-time insights that your organization can react to accordingly.

So ditch the scattered Excel reporting and start building a single source of truth for your data. Excel spreadsheets are boring, uninspiring and most frustrating of all, inefficient. It really doesn’t take a lot of very complex data to outgrow its scope. Sticking to it means you miss out on harnessing technology with the capability of turning data into meaningful and actionable insights, presented in a format that can be processed almost instantly – through dynamic visuals.

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