How to Make Google Sheets Work For You

Ever since man decided that it was time to move spreadsheets from paper and into the digital era, the resulting inventions of applications have continued to get ever more powerful. After a long succession of spreadsheet applications, Google Sheets arrived on the scene and grew into one of the more dominant bean counting tools that exist today.

What is Google Sheets?

Google Sheets – how to make it work for you

Google Sheets is a basic spreadsheet program that is included in the Google Drive service. It can be accessed using almost any online device that has a browser or the app installed. Anyone who has basic computer skills, and little exposure, to any sort of spreadsheet application, can soon learn how to master this software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud storage application too.

The tech giant that owns this product has made it a point to make this one particular widely available so anyone with even the most limited of resources (i.e. bandwidth, processing power, and disk space) can use it from anywhere in the world. That is why, for the most part, Google Sheets can be accessed by devices using any of the most common operating systems out there – Windows, iOS, Linux, Android, etc. – with compatible versions available for each of them.

What advantages does it offer businesses?

The main advantages of using Google Sheets as a business tool include:

  1. The price – nothing beats the word “FREE!”
  2. Storage, accessibility  – the fact that all workbooks are saved on Google’s servers means there is no storage, overhead or maintenance costs involved. This is good news for small businesses that have to operate on a limited budget.
  3. Machine independence – staying informed today means being able to access data using any device that may be at hand. This is a blessing both for businesses that have employees who work remotely and those that hire freelance talent that never needs to comes into the office for a day of work.

Ways businesses can use Google Sheets

Ok, right about now many will be asking what specific features or advantages they would be missing out on were they to decide not to use Google Sheets. To answer that, let us have a look at some of the many perks and goodies that come with the application:

1) Heatmaps

People who use spreadsheets love to have a clear picture of the data they are working on. Grouping cells by color makes it easier to recognize cells containing relevant and related sets of data by highlighting them in relation to one another. With Google Sheets, these same users can take it a step further and create heatmaps that assign colors to the cells depending on the “intensity” of the number that it contains.

2) Collaboration

An important advantage of having a spreadsheet in the cloud is that it allows for easy collaboration. In Google Sheets, all versions of a spreadsheet are stored online allowing multiple users to edit it and then be able to see their own unique versions of their changes. This collaborating is done without disrupting the work of other users.

3) Google Security

Google Sheets is a product that comes from one of the biggest tech companies on the planet that also takes issues of security and privacy very seriously. Any spreadsheets that are created using their applications, and that are then stored on their servers will come under their protection and are accessible based on the rules you’ve created using their sharing feature.

4) Interfaces

There is a common misconception about Google Sheets in that it is a “boring” spreadsheet with very limited features. More advanced users have however managed to enhance their spreadsheets using conditional formatting, images, drop down menus, and charts and graphs.

5) Mobile apps

Mobile apps play a critical role in today’s world of digital commerce and it would be a mistake for a business to not have at least one out there. This is doubly true when it is easy to create apps with the help of Google Sheets.

6) QR codes

Any business that wants to drive more traffic and push sales through the roof can do so by distributing coupons that can then be used to get discounts or can be redeemed in their offline stores. With Google Sheets, businesses can easily create QR codes via simple add-ons that make their creation way easier.

What are the drawbacks to using Google Sheets?

For those who live and breathe spreadsheets, Google Sheets definitely has its limitations.

  1. Data processing limitations
    • For one, it “only has 2 million cells” and any a document that has data filling any number of cells that is even close to that number will result in a slow-loading workbook that will eventually fail to load. Once you start to process thousands of rows of data, Google Sheets also starts to go sluggish which is the last thing you need when analysing data.
  2. Charts are just not professional
    • Google Sheets has great graphs and charts but a lot still remains to be done by way of 3D graphics and more-interactive GUIs
  3.  Analysis and complex data modelling is tricky
    • The pivot table creation tool is borderline basic which means any advanced database gymnastics you may be used to elsewhere, are going to be off limits. Although this application has a great array of formulae users can play around with, it still leaves a lot to be desired when compared to other, more popular, spreadsheet applications.
  4. Requires internet connection for updates and collaboration
    • Being a cloud application, Google Sheets will always need an Internet connection. This could frustrate users who try to access the spreadsheets from countries or areas with poor telecommunication infrastructures. Data could also be lost should there be an interruption in the connection before it can be saved.

Could Google Sheets be better than premium spreadsheet applications?

Yes – if you have modest spreadsheet requirements and want to collaborate with remote colleagues on basic data points.

No – especially if you have multiple people (a sales team for example) needing to access your database, or if you crunch numbers for a living. Then you’ll definitely need the advanced functionality that premium spreadsheet applications can provide.

You will get what you pay for

A business that is conscious of data storage, accessibility, functionality and security of its data will always be on the lookout for a more-established selection of data management suites. At the end of the day, for those that work with massive amounts of data and who need a step above bare-bones functionality, Google Sheets will never be a suitable replacement.

The notion that more work and thought is put into creating premium database software and database applications holds water. Common sense dictates that businesses that put money into their software, do so with the intention of recouping their losses. Therefore, to make sure people do buy them, database software companies add features that are not present in other similar, but free, applications.

But, even then, should the features be present in other [free] applications, the premium makers add more “oomph!” to theirs so their users will be happy to pay for that much control and power over their data.

When evaluating spreadsheet software, an often overlooked option are online database software platforms. Built on low to no-code platforms, they don’t carry the hefty price tag of premium database software applications, yet still, offer the customization (and functionality) that a business is looking for.

Kohezion is an example of one of these no code platforms, and has seen many small businesses migrate to their database application once the functionality and lack of control over who is touching what on Google Sheets, becomes a real business issue. They all tend to offer a free trial, so it’s worthwhile taking signing up for free and using their wizards to give them a good test.

When it comes to quality and functionality … it often pays off to pay a little more! But it doesn’t need to break the bank.