Yes, it’s the ubiquitous “examination of Excel” article that every BI blog posts at some point. But I think it’s important to discuss the limitations of Excel, especially for readers who are just beginning to realize that they cannot continue with manual data collection and reporting forever.
Question: What is the most popular database and what’s the most popular BI tool?
Answer: Excel and Excel
This isn’t surprising. Everybody knows how to use Excel and it’s installed on just about every Windows machine out there. Excel is intuitive and allows users to input data and output it into simple reports and charts – stuff we all need to do our jobs. You can even do some pretty complex stuff with it if you’re willing to learn how to write macros. But just because you can do something, should you? Obvious answer: No.
For one thing, Excel is not multi-user software. It’s only meant to be used by you on your machine. Translation: It’s not a database like SQL Server or Oracle. You can store a lot of data in it, but as soon as you have to share this data with other stakeholders in your organization, things start to unravel. You realize that not everybody is entitled to see the data you’ve put into the spreadsheet (creating authorization/ authentication issues) so you’ll have to extract just their part. Then you have to get it to them via email or FTP, and any interaction they have with the data will need to make its way back to your original version for reconciliation (creating update management and versioning issues).