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A Heartfelt Breakup Letter to Excel BI Tools

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Dear Excel BI tools,

Despite what I’m about to say, I genuinely love everything about you, from conditional formatting, to pivot tables, to Power View. You have so many great features.

But… I think we should see other people.

I hate to break it to you this way, but I’ve been interested in business intelligence software for awhile and I’d like to explore my options.

I like you, Excel BI tools, but it feels like it takes a lot of work to get you to show me relevant business data.

Look, you’re great for someone who has the time and ability to learn how to use you, Excel… you’re just too good for me!

It’s not you… it’s me. I’m a standard business user. My business style (and lifestyle) doesn’t have room for a high-maintenance analytics solution. There’s a lot of ways we just don’t jive. For instance…

You need to show me what you mean

It’s always the same: you don’t show me what you mean.

It’s like I have to speak spreadsheet just to get you to tell me things. Sure, I can use a tool such as conditional formatting to highlight certain values, and color code them so they’re easy to see. But even when you communicate with me that way, Excel, it’s still all about you. It’s still a spreadsheet.

It’s like you’re just not willing to speak the visual language I need to hear… er, see. You’re so needy sometimes…

Whatever you try to tell me, Excel, it always looks the same…like this

Business intelligence software, however, visualizes things without me even asking. With a BI tool, I don’t need to use conditional formatting to highlight certain values. All I have to do is visualize my information in a scatter chart, and I’ll see the outliers without having to understand your logic.

For instance, Microsoft Power BI can turn a data set into a scatter chart in just five steps. And the results are apparent:

Relationships are built on communication, and I’m a visual communicator

Those outliers pop right out. I’m a visual person, Excel… men are from Mars, spreadsheets are from Venus, I guess.

I need someone I can grow with

When I met you, you were perfect for me, Excel BI tools. I’ll never forget that slightly-too-long eye contact we held when I first saw you average a whole column. But I’m not the person I was three years ago. Ditto my business.

You’re wonderful for one table of data, Excel, but there’s only so much you want to do. My business is growing— like Journey’s small town boy, I want to get on that midnight train going to millions of rows of data.

You’re happiest when you stick to a limited number of rows, or just one spreadsheet. And that’s cool! But it’s not what I’m looking for out of an analytics relationship.

I have to rely on a tool like VLOOKUP if I want to check data across different worksheets with you.

It’s like we don’t even speak the same language, Excel

With a business intelligence software program, however, I’m not limited to one table.

Business intelligence software integrates data from multiple sheets, and even data from multiple software programs. I can get my email marketing software, my ERP, and my CRM together, and easily check on how these multiple variables interact.

An EazyBI visualization that meets my need to compare multiple data points

You don’t live in the moment

Don’t get me wrong, I love reviewing what we’ve done together, Excel BI tools. And you’re great for reminiscing. If I’m interested in analyzing past transactions, you’re terrific, and I know someone out there will feel that way about you.

But I want to look forward. I need to live in the now.

I need to be able to work with live data. I had a heart-to-heart with analytics relationship expert JoAnn Martin of Provenir Platform, who told me how business intelligence can help me be present. “When you’re working with a BI tool, you’re typically able to use real-time data,” she tells me.

She told me how with you, Excel, it’s just so hard to live in the moment. I’ve got to check the data, export it, and, again, speak your language on your terms… Excel functions.

With business intelligence, however, I can set up those data sources to sync with the program, so I see live information. “I can act much faster with BI tools, and that’s more important, the more systems you have in play,” Martin says.

We’re at different places in our lives, Excel, and I need a system that can keep up with everything I want to accomplish.

Again, it’s Journey who says it best, Excel: some day, love will find you. Just not with me.

Can’t we all just collaborate?

If it were just the two of us, Excel BI tools, we’d be so set. We’d find a little place in the mountains by the lake, and no one would bother us, and it would be great.

But there are other people, Excel. I have friends. Co-workers. Friends who are co-workers. And when I bring you to the party, almost no one gets you. You’re not a joiner. I can’t collaborate with you the way I can with business intelligence software.

There we were at Tiffany’s (fourth) 29th birthday last week, and someone was like, “Hey, Excel BI tools, what do you think about the most recent P&L margins?” And you dropped this bomb:

I mean, how do you respond to that?!

How do you expect people to respond to that?

BI software, however, facilitates communication within my circle of friends. I can make a visualization, and other people can add annotations to it, rather than having to figure out what you mean, Excel, and then email me about it separately.

See that little white box, Excel? That’s how you keep a conversation going

I’m not just nitpicking here—a willingness to collaborate is part of what makes business intelligence software so great. Gartner research (available for Gartner subscribers) identified collaboration as one of the critical capabilities of BI software, saying that it can “drive a more-pervasive use and higher business value from BI investments.”

I wish it didn’t have to be this way, Excel BI tools. We really did have some good times together. But we’re holding each other back. I just know that somewhere, out there, is a statistician who’ll be a great match for you.

It’s time to let go, Excel.


A Business User

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About the Author

Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe writes about business intelligence and field service management for Capterra. His background is in education and higher ed, but he’s interested these days in how small businesses can use software to be more agile and efficient. When he’s not reading and writing about software, he’s probably reading and writing about history, music and comic books, finding new hikes throughout Virginia, or following the Fighting Irish.


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