Excel or just another reporting tool?

Reporting tools based on excel can have advantages and disadvantages.

You got a very nice task from your boss: Setting up an Excel Reporting, or use any other reporting tool to evaluate data and prepare it in a way your boss and colleague will “really” use it. Then you are not alone, there are many like you. Only most of them, let’s be honest, have less desire for it than one would expect at the beginning.

As a statistician, I count among the 0.001% of the population who love to build Excel reporting tools. I have already built many of them during my student work at a large chip manufacturer in Germany.

I would like to share my knowledge with you and give you some useful tips and tricks that will help you to get there quickly and easily. There are many good alternatives and certain reporting tools which are more simple and less overloaded than Excel.

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Choose wisely, young padawan

The concrete advantages and disadvantages of Excel compared to a BI reporting tool

When it comes to stable, rarely changing reporting processes, Excel is not suitable as a reporting tool. Excel is and remains a powerful spreadsheet tool with which you can create and share calculations and evaluations quickly and flexibly, individually and uncomplicatedly, depending on the field of application.

CriteriaExcel Reporting ToolsOther Business Intelligence Reporting Tools
Fast, easy entry and high flexibility+ + +
Excel is the ultimate calculation program to set and modify individual calculations in spreadsheets quickly and easily.
– – –
Most BI reporting tools require at least one constant data table and are therefore not suitable for small ad hoc calculations and manual data entries.
Learning Materials, Community and Support+ + –
Excel has been on the market for a long time and therefore has a large number of forums and a large community. There is almost too much on offer, so you often don’t know where to start. In the end, you will always find the right answer on stackoverflow.com.
– – +
Many reporting tools usually have their own forum. Unfortunately, for extensive support, you usually have to dig into your pocket yourself. The advantage is, however, that you can quickly talk to the developers of the BI reporting tool themselves to find a solution.
Automate regular reporting– – –
Excel is unfortunately not suitable for recurring reporting. Why? Because every small typo in the spreadsheet can cause errors that can have a negative impact on data quality (reliability).
+ + +
Once set, the BI-Reporting machine works tirelessly and usually makes no mistakes without doing anything. The BI software is therefore much more reliable when it comes to regular and stable reporting.
Data connectivity and robustness– – +
Excel is extremely flexible when it comes to copying and pasting tables. But if you want to connect another tool like Google Analytics or Facebook you have to use third party plugins.
+ + –
BI tools come with a variety of data connectors. This allows you to quickly connect to other data sources without having to build complex ETL procedures. However, the coverage of connectors is not always the same. In an emergency, the CSV Upload helps.
Troubleshooting and handling– – –
Especially with large and complex Excel Reports, it is almost impossible to find an error. Often it only helps to rebuild the whole excel project.
+ + +
Many BI tools do not allow logical mistakes in the first place. But if an unknown error occurs, you can either contact support directly or quickly set up a new instance.
Data Visualization+ – –
Excel has a pragmatic chart engine. Many BI reporting tools use established methods from Excel visualizations because users have become accustomed to them. However, complex visualizations and maps are not so easy to implement.
+ + –
BI tools perform a little better here. Geodata and map visualizations in particular can be implemented well in almost any BI tool. Unfortunately, some tools are not so flexible when it comes to filtering the data.
Scalability, performance and distribution– – –
Definitely not Excel. When it comes to large amounts of data, e.g. > 1 million rows or more, Excel quickly becomes flabby. In addition, everyone knows when it comes to the bottom line question here: “Please help, I can’t open this excel and where can I find the latest version of your excel report?”
+ + +
User onboarding in a BI dashboard is easy and uncomplicated to map via online access. Many tools offer their own databases. These are continuously optimized for performance, access and reliability.
33% positive77% positive

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