At their simplest, spreadsheets organize information into quantifiable bits of information that allow users to analyze operations. Columns represent categories, rows represent iterations. When you break down information, it provides a variety of surprising results. In businesses big and small, spreadsheets drive actions and drives understanding of those actions.
Caution, however, should be exercised not to replace qualitative thought and interpersonal relationships with spreadsheets. Though powerful, spreadsheets are a tool to simplify quantitative analysis, not a replacement for good management. Also, when possible, quality online customer management systems or product management system softwares are infinitely better than attempting to use spreadsheets due to their wide variety of tools and interfunctionality. When gaps exist, however, spreadsheets can help.
Two common spreadsheet softwares
Two common spreadsheet systems are Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. Excel costs but Sheets does not. While there are several other powerful spreadsheet systems — including SmartSheet.com, Apple Numbers, etc. — we’ll focus on these two given their wide availability and ease of access.
MS Excel (subscribe/download software)
- More powerful than Sheets
- Users can develop macros, employ complex tables, create complex pivot tables and dashboards on files that rest on shared drives or desktops
- Sometimes data loss happens when files get too big or are opened by too many different people.
- Excel is a part of the MS Office suite — among the most commonly used yet undertrained software in the world — is widely used but largely underutilized. Most people have it, few people use it to its full advantage. Though MS Office no longer comes standard with new Microsoft computers, you can get an annual subscription either online or by buying it at a Microsoft Store, which can sometimes come at-discount to the online price.
Google Sheets (online only)
- Comes free with a Gmail account / Google Drive
- Users can create spreadsheets with some minor process functionality that can be widely shared and edited by multiple users at the same time
- Less chance of data loss due to restricted functionality
- Easier to share and collaborate than traditional Excel, though MS Online offers multiuser collaboration
- Integrates with Google Suite of programs, including forms and Google Sites.
What spreadsheets do
All information can be broken down. Rows and columns create intersections where you compare data from two different angles. Think of it as triangulation like in the movies where they find someone’s location by measuring its distance from two different locations. Spreadsheets allow you to do the same, but with information.
By breaking information down, you can identify patterns in the chaos. Patterns create predictability. When you define what makes something predictable, it allows you to recreate the conditions to control that predictability.
In plain English? When you figure out what in your business is profitable, you can learn to get rid of things that aren’t profitable and spend more time being productive and, ultimately, make money.
While you might have your business “in your head,” your natural biases can blind you to those patterns. Spreadsheets allows you to manipulate data to understand it. Further, you can share that understanding through spreadsheets and the data-visualization tools inherent to them.
For example, if you think men aged 42-45 shop from Ace Hardware
A host of free and/or cheap spreadsheet (specifically Excel) training resources exist across the internet. Business has operated on spreadsheets for decades.
Below is a list of various types of online resources for learning spreadsheets. If you’re new to online learning and would like to learn more about learning online, check out How to learn a skill via the internet.
In the spirit of not recreating the wheel, this post includes others’ top listicles for Excel resources. If there’s anything you should take away from reviewing these links is that there is probably a listicle for ANYTHING you’re interested in learning. Just search for: “top _____ sites 2020” but enter your topic and year.
The internet is replete with training and development programs. Whether scavenging YouTube for free content, learning from fellow users on UDEMY, or purchasing full corporate education CBTs, you can learn what you need from your laptop.
What is a blog? Blogs are niche-focused journals where authors collect and share information made available for the public. Sites like CNN, Wikipedia and Snopes are technically blogsites.
Forums are designed for users to discuss particular topics in comments over time. Formus promote learning via creative, non-standard answers to problems. Text books are great, but they can’t fill every gap. Forums are replete with gap-filling solutions.
Originally, we were going to provide a downloadable Excel document, but we’re not going to for two key reasons:
- Don’t start with a spreadsheet if you already have a developed business. Look up great software from sites like Capterra.com that allow you to search and filter to find the right software for you at the right price.
- If you aren’t prepared to pay for Software as a Service (SAAS), then use the button below to search for available Excel spreadsheets already available from countless amazing resources.