Check out this cool infographic! Submitted to OLAP.com by the folks at Business Intelligence Technologies. They’ve mapped here 5 warning signs that you and your professional team are living in Excel Hell. Perhaps it’s just been accepted that your Excel Hell is what it is, but we beg to differ. Professional teams overuse Excel, to a point way beyond what it was designed to do as a personal productivity tool. This fact has led to many technology and BI software vendors positioning themselves against Excel as if it is something to be removed. Sacrilege, cry the users! And us too! People responsible for planning in particular, need the flexibility that Excel provides and find almost any other tool too rigid. (See the Wall Street Journal article: Finance Pros Say You’ll Have to Pry Excel Out of Their Cold, Dead Hands) So, if Excel is essential, how do we get free from Excel Hell?
For further reading, see the blog on this topic on the Business Intelligence Technologies website.
“There’s nothing inherently wrong with spreadsheets; they’re excellent tools for many different jobs. But data visualization and data communication is not one of them.” – Bernard Marr
We couldn’t agree more with what Bernard is saying in his article, “Why You Must STOP Reporting Data in Excel!” Excel is everywhere and it has proven to be a valuable resource to every company across the globe. The problem is that many companies are using spreadsheets as their main line of communication internally. Excel is great at displaying all of the raw data you could possibly dream of, just ask any Data Analyst, who eats, sleeps and dreams of never-ending spreadsheets. Bernard gets right to the point and lays out the top 4 reasons that spreadsheets are not the right fit for visualizing data and communication within an organization.
Most people don’t like them.
Bernard makes a great point, unless you work with Excel frequently like a data analyst, it has the reputation of being intimidating. Employees will be reluctant to use it, let alone even think about analyzing data from it. If employees are not clerking in Excel all day, they are most likely going to give Excel the cold shoulder when it comes to communicating data.
Important data is hidden.
I think it is safe to agree with Bernard on this. Spreadsheets are not the best visualization tool out there. Most spreadsheets today are full of endless numbers. If users can’t look at the data and quickly decipher valuable vs. non-valuable, that is a problem. There are better visualization tools that paint a clearer picture and allow for effective communication.
Loss of historical data.
Users in Excel are constantly updating the facts and data as necessary. The downfall to that is it essentially erases all historical data. Without historical data there is no clear way to see the trends and patterns. It takes away the ability to make predictions for the future.
It’s difficult to share.
Spreadsheets are not ideal for collaborative data sharing because they allow the risk of having data deleted or changed. The way that data is shared today is by emailing updated spreadsheets. This data is considered stale or dead, it lacks the key component of remaining “live” or in real-time. This way of sharing is not only time consuming but eliminates the opportunity for users to collaborate while never losing connection to the most updated information available.
The great news is, there’s an easy answer to all of the common frustrations of spreadsheets…
PowerOLAP is an example of a product developed with a solution that addresses all of these problems. It allows for real-time collaboration between users, while always remaining “live”. It has the ability to store historical data which allows for accurate analytical predictions to be reported. Take a deeper look into PowerOLAP and see how it can take your organization to the next level.
To read the entire article by Bernard Marr, click here.
“Excel is one of those applications that the business world cannot live without.”
So says one of 27 Excel experts commenting on Microsoft’s Power BI Suite and its effect on the great wide world of spreadsheet users.
As Excel lovers, we couldn’t agree more!
There’s a wealth of wisdom in the observations made by these 27 pros. Along with the main topic of what’s new in Power BI Suite, there’s excellent insight on the use of Excel and BI generally. (For a good post about what one expert calls a “running joke in BI communities—‘What is the most used feature in any business intelligence solution?’”, see But, Does It Export to Excel?, from PARIS Technologies.)
About what’s new with Power BI Suite, the experts agree that it delivers significantly powerful new capabilities: from connecting to enterprise data (Power Query) to aggregating differently sourced data (Power Pivot) to creating exciting visualizations (Power View and Power Map—watch out, “Visual Analytics” products!), this suite of tools signifies a whole new era of “self-service BI” for Excel users.
Smart guys and gals that they are, the experts point up some caveats. How will these new capabilities affect a company’s “B.I. workflow[s]”? And, mightn’t Power BI, by empowering Excel user(s), propagate more—and more complex—silos of data among disconnected groups of users? Will IT lose total control, if users feel it’s their Excel-given birthright to reach back to underlying data sets for BI solutions? And as to collaborative work—will SharePoint be the answer, finally?
All the caveats and concerns are certainly worth considering … That said, from our standpoint: we begin with the premise that user-empowering technologies—Excel or otherwise—are a good thing! As for the caveats, won’t someone please invent a technology that addresses concerns about security and collaboration? And one that provides for other application needs, like planning, budgeting and forecasting? Because that’s what people do in Excel! And while they’re at it, a solution that is inclusive of other non-Excel users? (Hmmm, maybe someone has – see here for a description of PARIS’s Olation).
“The future looks very bright for Excel and BI,” says another expert. Here’s to a future that’s bright for all BI users—and no caveats required!
Read the original article, from InvestInTech.com here: 27 Microsoft Excel Experts Predict the Future of Excel in Business Intelligence
Pivot Tables aren’t merely a way to interact with your data. You also can use them as a rich source of data for regular reports and analyses…without using the weak function, GETPIVOTDATA.
You can use a Pivot Table as a database in the same way that you can use Simple Tables or Excel Tables. However, I’ve never seen a description of how to do it. That’s too bad, because Excel 2010 gave Excel users the ability to use one or more Pivot Tables as a massive and powerful spreadsheet database. If you don’t set up your Pivot Table as a database, you typically must use the GETPIVOTDATA function to return data from it. That limits your power, because GETPIVOTDATA is a “screen-scraper” function. That is, not-very-powerful function only can return the numbers and text you see on your screen. On the other hand, if you do set up your Pivot Table as a database, you can use Excel’s more powerful functions with it, functions like SUMIFS, SUMPRODUCT, INDEX, MATCH, and so on. In future posts, I’ll show you how these functions can give you significantly more power to return results from your spreadsheet database.
Read Full Article: How to Set Up a Pivot Table as a Spreadsheet Database
From Forbes.com, this article sparked a lot of interaction on our social media outlets, and we think it is an important one: Business Intelligence (BI) Isn’t Very Intelligent, Yet. Yes, big companies talk about BI like they know what is going on. Fact is, very few companies are doing predictive analytics, and most are focusing only on department-specific initiatives. When it comes down to what is actually happening in big companies–they are looking at reports that are produced manually and that represent data from the past.
Our personal favorite quote from this article is, “So companies use middleware and analytical tools like Tableau, Business Objects, Microstrategy and Cognos. They get results, but with a price in time and manpower. When different groups are on different spreadsheets, they spend a lot of meeting time debating who has the real version of the truth.”
Read the full article
Excel is pervasive in businesses, with a probably very low estimate of a couple of hundred million users around the world. Countless companies run some part of their reporting, analytics or planning systems using spreadsheets. For this good reason Excel is regarded as the most commonly used Business Intelligence tool, even if it’s single workbook workup. Still, horror stories abound about error-ridden spreadsheet data, from the “London whale” debacle to an influential paper by two Yale economists about debt-to-GDP ratios.
But this post is not about Excel’s failures, whether in stray spreadsheet mode or as a component within a Business Intelligence implementation. Because by now, with the right framework in place—for example, with Microsoft’s SharePoint Server 2013 or with an analytical database like PowerOLAP—there’s no reason not to use the everyday spreadsheet as an essential component in a B.I. rollout. That’s especially the case if Excel is the preferred front end for an intended user group, like the Finance team.
The subject here might better be described as making a complementary B.I. front end choice, and not becoming a victim to Excel’s many successes as a solution! After all, if spreadsheets are so commonly used, and can be utilized to great (and secure) effect, why not always default to Excel as a front end? Excel can make impressive charts and graphs; there’s the ability to capture data in Excel; and users can even perform “surface-layer calculations” using the product’s limitless bag of tools and tricks.
See Related: What is A ‘Depreciated’ Value in Excel
And then there’s the refrain, “everyone already uses Excel!” So why doesn’t everyone just get with the program and accept the spreadsheet as a default front end to a cracklin’ B.I. solution?
Well, the simplest answer is: because many users just don’t want to use Excel. And given the laudable objective of “self-service” BI, there’s really no reason why a firm should foist a User Interface upon users if it turns them off—or, worse, intimidates them. (For some people, Excel is like a foreign language: in the face of fluent “speakers” it can be scary to say “buenos días”.)
There are reasons—less emotional ones, we might say—for not using Excel. Arguably, specialized dashboard products are better at conveying quick and impressive visualizations of KPIs; and though it is a matter of opinion, such products may provide an easier way to create graphical representations of data than by operating Excel’s charting and graphing tools. Perceptions matter, and if dashboard product is perceived to be easier and more impactful, users will prefer it. As well, with more and more people expecting to manage their own charts and graphs via mobile devices, an Excel-only strategy seems far less likely to satisfy a wide user group.
Assume that your firm wants to satisfy both the Excel-centric and the worksheet-phobic: Does that condemn you to a less-than-optimal (or, worse, self-defeating) multi-vendor approach to Business Intelligence? Not at all! It should be possible to satisfy all your objectives and users—provided you have a strategy in place that can “make Business Intelligence better” by using technologies you may already own—like Excel, almost certainly, but also Tableau, QlikView, along with SQL Server, SAP HANA and other relational databases.
See Related: OLATION Visionary Intelligence The Future of Data Management
The key thing to determine is whether your platform can serve as a “connector” or “nexus” technology, to accommodate Excel and other B.I. front ends. You will want to be sure that what you select will be totally secure, i.e., ensure one version of the truth—no separate silos holding data for different uses or front end; and, that it can exceed address current Business Intelligence needs, as well as prepare you for next-phase requirements (maybe, beyond current KPI needs, you’re targeting an inventory forecasting application in future).
And most of all, your selection should keep all your users happy and very, very productive—whether they’re Excel jockeys, or faint at the thought of File, Open, XLSX.