10 Reasons why Excel is Relevant Today and Will be in the Future

Microsoft Excel has been the backbone of accounting, financial analysis, data analysis and many other careers for nearly 30 years. We’ll explain why Excel is still relevant and is worth investing time into learning even as the world moves towards bigger datasets and more advanced data management solutions.

Learn why excel is still relevant, the new features Microsoft has introduced from RPA, AI, and Python.

Microsoft Excel was first introduced on September 30, 1985 exclusively for the Apple Macintosh platform and later released for Microsoft Windows in November 1987. Since then it has grown to become one of the most ubiquitous software programs for individuals and business.

Even though times are changing and more elegant and complex data management solutions exist, we still see a bright future for Microsoft Excel.

Here are our top ten reasons why.

Let’s jump in!

10.) Microsoft Continues to Invest in New Excel Features

Microsoft continues to invest in new features for Microsoft Excel, including AI features, cloud integrations, capabilities to connect more seamlessly with data lakes, to simple but highly impactful updates such as the release of the new XLOOKUP formula.

As the world of data transformation and analysis has evolved, Microsoft has made sure that Excel can still keep up with the introduction of new features and updating old features to keep the software relevant and useful in today’s modern data world.

9.) More Advanced Tools Are Time Consuming to Learn

Excel is known for its accessibility and for the vast majority of data tasks, Excel’s capabilities are more than sufficient. Most users of Excel are non-technical in nature and are unlikely to spend the time to learn SQL, Python or other advanced data analysis languages.

Even tools that are designed to be easy to use, such as Microsoft Power BI there is a steep learning curve. People that don’t regularly work with data can quickly get the hang of Excel, learning how to add numbers create tables etc. Power BI takes a while to understand working with data as tables, building relationships, and the nuances of DAX just as an example.

Sometimes people just need some quick calculations and to perform the analysis without spending much time learning a tool and Excel is a great place to start.

8.) Co-Authoring and Collaboration with Excel Online

Excel Online is a great example of how Microsoft sees the future of many of its Office Applications. The application runs inside of a web browser, meaning that no download is required. It supports collaboration features, allowing multiple users to work on a spreadsheet at one time and integrates tightly with Microsoft Cloud storage solution, OneDrive.

Even though Microsoft Excel Online currently lacks some advanced features that are only available on Excel for Desktop, people can sign up for Excel Online free of charge ensuring that it will have a wide user base for years to come. It’s also a great way to learn the basics of Microsoft Excel without paying any money.

7.) Type Script and Power Automate Integration

Excel Macros written in VBA was traditionally the go to method for automating many business tasks. Now largely outdated, Microsoft has introduced TypeScript to replace it. TypeScript is a programming language used in Microsoft 365 applications that integrate with Microsoft’s Power Automate RPA platform.

This integration allows people to automate common Excel tasks while enabling Excel to integrate with other cloud software solutions. For example, you could use Power Automate to identify an E-mail with an attachment from a specific user, open the attachment, copy the data, append it to an existing Excel spreadsheet, and send a new e-mail letting other users know the data has been updated.

Power Automate on its own is highly flexible and useful for countless applications. When integrating Power Automate and Excel many complex business operations can be completely automated.

6.) Excel is Highly Flexible Compared to Databases, Warehouses, and Lakes

Solutions such as databases, data warehouses, and data lakes have evolved over the last several decades to handle larger and larger sets of data. Each of these individual tools are highly useful and have their place within many organizations.

However, most users and non-technical in nature and telling them to update tables in any of these solutions would be a big lift. Many wouldn’t even know where to begin.

Excel certainly can’t handle the volume of data that these solutions can, but Excel is very easy to maintain and numbers (for better, or worse) can be quickly overwritten in an Excel sheet.

For example, if a value in incoming data were incorrect going into a data lake or warehouse it might take a day or more to troubleshoot and fix, while an Excel user could over-write it in seconds.

Note: We’re not saying this is a best practice, but it’s possible and for many small businesses and people that just need to get something done it’s quick and easy in Excel.

5.) Excel and Python Integration

The integration of Excel with Python opens up new possibilities for data analysis and automation. By leveraging Python’s powerful libraries within Excel, users can perform sophisticated data processing, statistical analysis, and machine learning tasks, bridging the gap between traditional spreadsheet management and advanced data science.

The following video from Microsoft highlights the relatively new feature and shows how to deploy it.

Python is one of the most popular if not the most popular programming language in the world giving Excel users endless possibilities for analysis and automation.

4.) Excel Connects to Power BI and Microsoft Fabric Datasets

One of the lesser-known capabilities of Excel is the ability to connect Excel to a Power BI dataset. This has several advantages and gives people capabilities in Excel that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

  • Automate data refreshes through the Power BI Service
  • Enables larger and more complex data
  • Build a semantic model once and re-use many times
  • Leverage Microsoft Fabric Capabilities

Microsoft Fabric is one of Microsoft’s biggest product launches in years. It combines tools for data engineering and data science into one platform along with Power BI enabling less users to perform complex data integrations and machine learning analysis in one location.

3.) Excel Copilot and AI Integration

The introduction of Excel Copilot and AI integration marks a significant leap forward. These tools enhance productivity and decision-making by offering intelligent insights, automating repetitive tasks, and providing natural language processing capabilities.

Microsoft leverages the same technology behind ChatGPT to enable users to interact with Excel spreadsheets and complete tasks by asking it to rather than perform the task themselves.

This fusion of Excel and AI demonstrates what will likely become the future of work as AI and software become increasingly more integrated.

Check out our comprehensive guide on using ChatGPT AI with Excel Spreadsheets.

2.) Power Query is Expanding to More Services

Power Query is a subset of data transformation tools first deployed in Microsoft 2010. Originally called Power Pivot, the tools have expanded to be cover more data transformation scenarios using a point and click editor avoiding the need to understand how to code.

Microsoft has invested heavily in Power Query in recent years enabling it to connect to hundreds of data sources, and deploying the same Power Query interface that’s available in Excel to other products, such as Power BI, Microsoft Fabric Data Flows Gen 2, and Data Wrangler Python generation.

Example of the Power Query Online Interface used in Microsoft Fabric Data Flows Gen 2 for ETL processes and Data Factory

Power Query provides one familiar interface for advanced ETL, ML data prep, Business Intelligence, and Excel Spreadsheets make it one of the most widely used interfaces in the data world.

1.) Excel has a Massive Install Base

Excel’s user base is vast and diverse, spanning across all industries, company sizes and continents. This widespread adoption is a testament to its utility, flexibility, and ease of use. Excel serves as a universal language in the world of accounting and finance. Even if people completely stopped creating new Excel spreadsheets today it would take decades to fully replace them with other software solutions.

Should You Learn Microsoft Excel?

Everyone who works in business should have a working understanding of Microsoft Excel. Even data professionals who work with more advanced systems will likely run into Excel spreadsheets. Having a basic understanding of the platform will ultimately make their jobs easier.

People who work in finance, accounting, and data analytics will likely come across spreadsheets far more often than other groups and should consider investing in an online training course to learn more intermediate features and understand what the most commonly used formulas are doing.

Conclusion

Excel’s adaptability, ease of use, and continuous integration with cutting-edge technologies like AI, Python, and Power BI underscore its versatility and value that it will continue to provide in the future.

Most people who don’t work in accounting or finance would probably be amazed at how many Fortune 500 organizations who have nearly limitless amounts of money to spend on systems, engineers, programmers and specialists to consolidate and manage data only to have presentations and final consolidations put together in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

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