Spreadsheets vs Databases – Round 4: Business Intelligence

The Free Dictionary defines Business Intelligence as ‘.. a set of theories, methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information for business purposes.’  It goes on to say that Business Intelligence  ‘..can handle large amounts of information to help identify and develop new opportunities.’

So, how do Spreadsheets and Databases measure up when looking into Business Intelligence and the ability to identify new trends and direction for the business?  Spreadsheets vs databases moves on to round four…

Round 4: Business Intelligence


business-intelligence-spreadsheetsWith a spreadsheet, the experienced user can quickly take a table of data and make a graph or chart of it to examine it for trends.

The same is true of a database, but the skillset required for a database is broader and requires more time to learn.

So, the ease of use of spreadsheets could be an advantage when doing quick analysis of business data.  I think we all started using Excel just because of this ease of use for the inexperienced beginner.

A new user can quickly develop a graph or chart from a simple table without training.  This is one of the reasons that Excel has become so popular and widespread.  It has meant, however, that there are many spreadsheets with different data sources being combined and compiled which often leads to unintentional errors in the reported results.


business-intelligenceIt would take longer to set up and generate a speculative one-off analysis using a database as compared to a spreadsheet, even for the experienced user.

However, it is easier to cross-reference and maintain data structures using a database, so the results at the end are more dependable and robust.

This round is not as clear-cut as previous rounds, as spreadsheets and database both have their advantages.  Spreadsheets are quicker to set up, but databases have more traceable and robust data sources.


This one looks like a draw.  Spreadsheets are quicker, but their outcomes are less certain because the underlying data is less robust and more open to misinterpretation and user error.

We’ll call this one a draw, leaving the score after four rounds at:

Databases 3½ : Spreadsheets ½

Here are some other articles you may find interesting:

  1. How To Get The Reports You Need To Guide Your Business
  2. 7 Reaons Your Team Should Drop Spreadsheets
  3. Want To Delegate To Your Team? Give Them The Right Tools

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