Microsoft Excel is one of the most popular spreadsheet softwares used in the world today. With over 750 million users, it is the traditional tool of choice for presenting and analyzing data. Nowadays, it is in a position to be the new BI tool of choice, as well. With the recent versions of Excel, Microsoft announced some forward-thinking built-in Business Intelligence features. In the age of big data, this is a phenomenal development.
However, the announcement of Business Intelligence features raised many questions in the field of big data manipulation. Many doubted if Excel is powerful enough. Questions commonly asked were- ‘Can it manipulate the amount and types of data businesses deal with today? Does it have a future in BI workflows?’ Excel has added many new features such as Power BI (Power Pivot to aggregate disparate sources into business intelligence models, Power Query to source and clean data from disparate dirty sources, Power View To create dynamic dashboards from those models, Power Maps to tell the data story on a geo-spatial plane, etc.) that naturally integrate with Excel, analysts, reporting professionals, and BI people. So it is being found more and more useful to these professionals.
No matter how many systems a company has or how big they are, the reality is that the majority of data is exported to Excel before decisions of serious consequence are made. There are very few finance departments in the world that don’t run their critical decision-making analysis through Excel.
To remain the favorite analytics app of everyone, Excel needs to do what it is amazingly good at. These include offering an environment where anyone can play with data and come up with information, keeping the Excel software offerings clean and simple, giving users competent Excel apps for various devices and include features to do powerful data analytics processes with one-click (as against a complex set of formulas, pivot tables & manual steps that many analysts do now). The main issue for Excel today is not the fact that it isn’t the best out there for building business intelligence, it is that far too many users are ignorant of the vast amount of capability that was added in the past few years. The attitude of “Excel can’t do that” is still pervasive and relied upon by its competitors to sell their products. So the companies need to learn from an analyst who uses Excel BI in reality and learn its working instead of having preconceived notions.
The chances of Excel succeeding in the world of big data is very high in reality because it is the only application where you don’t need to be 100% technically adept but at the same time, you can feel like you are.
Excel might adapt to make itself easier to use and easier to integrate with enterprise-level databases. Many different BI Software applications have already decided to add integration elements into their software such as Oracle Answers and even heavy data visualization softwares like Qlikview have decided to allow you to export data into Excel because that’s the demand of business professionals now. Excel has no significant competition as it is the most feature-rich, most integrated, most widely used spreadsheet software. There are a few lesser spreadsheet applications but they are not suitable for real-world corporate use.
Excel provides the ability to create simple to sophisticated numeric models based on the concept of in-cell calculation coupled with absolute and/or relative reference to other cells. This is a fundamental approach that is original to Excel. It has many other capabilities, including a large number of sophisticated mathematical, statistical and logical functions, extensive data analysis, deep access to external data sources, visualization, prediction, AI, integration with other applications and the potential to integrate with corporate applications and cloud services.
Business Analysis tools were once only available to large corporations due to their cost and complexity. With Microsoft Excel being practically available on most computers, its analysis and data manipulation capabilities, combined with its relative ease of use, makes it a strong business intelligence tool that is now available to the masses.
With Excel being a low cost, but big capability tool, Business Intelligence solutions are now readily available to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) allowing them to gain valuable insights that were once only undertaken by large corporations that could afford such workflows and processes.
So, Excel is still undeniably relevant in the age of big data. It remains as important as ever for general use. Though it may not be a standalone big data tool, in collaboration with other platforms, Excel is indispensable for high-level management and manipulation, with no indications that it will be phased out any time soon.
Written by Ananyo for The Growup Group