Why People Love Excel — and Why They Hate It

You can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it.

Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool that has been around for a long time and is considered the standard in the world of spreadsheets. But it also has some serious drawbacks that leaves business leaders scratching their heads and, yes, even occasionally tearing their hair out.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s our take on what drives our love-hate relationship with Microsoft Excel.

It’s an extremely flexible tool…

By becoming familiar with just a couple of simple commands, you can perform quick data entry work and mathematical calculations. Excel makes it very easy, for example, to copy data from other sources and manipulate it to reveal new insights.

…but it’s also easy to make a mistake.

Excel’s advanced mathematical calculations are only as accurate as the data that has been entered. One wrong keystroke or random deletion can have vast negative ramifications for corporations that depend on the data for financial reports and forecasts. In addition, spreadsheets are particularly prone to errors when many of them must be manually consolidated as one. The problem is so widespread that studies have concluded that close to 90% of spreadsheets contain errors.

It’s powerful…

This is arguably the main reason that Excel is the most popular business application for so many companies, and why it has lasted so long since its launch in 1985. Excel can perform basic and complex mathematical functions, can analyze data, forecast trends and can help visualize piles of data by using graphs and charts.

…but it’s difficult to track changes.

Technically, Excel does have a feature to track changes to spreadsheets. However, enabling it automatically creates a shared workbook, which means that you are extremely limited in terms of what you can do. For example, you cannot insert blocks of cells, create a table, merge or unmerge cells, or sort or filter by formatting.

For this reason, team members working on a spreadsheet will often create different versions of the same file. But this means that if you wish to determine who changed one particular cell, you might need to review dozens of different spreadsheets.

It’s a powerful personal tool…

Contrary to popular belief, Excel is not just for finances. It can help you organize data, easily create graphics and even create pixelated images.

…but it’s not a great enterprise tool.

Just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many users can definitely mess up a spreadsheet. It’s challenging to share a spreadsheet among many team members, and it’s even harder to consolidate all of the versions, or to know which one is the most accurate.

A solution such as DataRails allows teams to continue working with the Excel they know and love, while addressing all of the issues above. With DataRails, teams can collaborate and consolidate data, receive instant insights, be assured of data integrity and working on the latest verified spreadsheet, and more.