Accelerate Your Analytics, and Decision-Making, with Google BigQuery and Sheets


Early in the spring of 2019, Google announced a number of improvements to Google Sheets. We’ve had a chance to test-drive these new features for the past few months and see this release as not just an incremental improvement in the world of business intelligence, but having potential to change how business decisions are made across many industries and verticals. 

As many of you know, one of the core features Google launched was the ability to run BigQuery in Google Sheets, allowing users to both run the queries inside Sheets, as well as save the queries and refresh the data at a user’s convenience. Previously, getting data from BigQuery into Google Sheets was an onerous process—download file into CSV, upload to Sheets, etc—and there was no real-time sync between BigQuery and Sheets. With the BigQuery connector, Sheets becomes the front-end to your data.

Before we dive into Sheets’ newest feature and its impact on business, a quick aside on BigQuery. BigQuery is “Google's fully managed, petabyte-scale, low-cost analytics data warehouse.” If that doesn’t translate, basically it’s the infrastructure that a little company called Google runs on. And it’s available to all companies as a service, often at a much lower cost of other data warehousing solutions. BigQuery is also served as a “NoOp” solution—meaning that you don’t need to hire a team of DBAs to manage the system—BigQuery is a managed service. Companies such as Snapchat and WePay run their entire business intelligence infrastructure on BigQuery.


Challenge Accepted

This is a significant upgrade for one big reason: Though Google Sheets is ubiquitous in business today, Excel has been the dominant platform on which business is conducted for the past three decades. Today, Google Sheets is becoming an even bigger challenger, thanks to its ever-evolving features and functions. 

Sheets is fast, scalable, and shareable within an organization, and it allows for insights to permeate through an organization all for a fraction of the cost of Excel. The key differentiator between Excel and Google Sheets has been the real-time collaboration on spreadsheets with other users. This was the core value proposition of Google Sheets since you need OneDrive + complicated setup to pull this off with Excel (or this dreaded thing called Sharepoint). 

So what’s at the heart of the new Sheets connector features? A few things that get us pretty excited: 

  • Everyone can get in on the data action. The Google Sheets // Big Query data connector puts real-time, auto-updating data in the hands of the people. The complex data modelling can take place within BiqQuery, and all that is needed to access the data by your everyday user is a simple ‘select * from table’ statement. 

  • That’s billion with a B. One of Google Sheets' biggest issues was the limit on rows. That’s been essentially eliminated—now we’re not limited to 10,000 rows, but can have up to 10 billion, so even the most data-rich companies can likely use it. (Though important to note that this feature is still in beta phase.)

  • A different kind of streaming. Reporting is getting much simpler, thanks to the elimination of manual processes. Now, there’s no need to export data to CSV for analysis on a daily/weekly frequency, because the connection to BigQuery means continuous data flow between platforms. 

The technology is something we love to geek out over. But it’s not the reason we think this update means so much. 

The Promised Land 

Even as we automate more and more, build technologies that talk to each other, and analyze incredibly vast quantities of data, we can’t forget that there are always humans at the other end of the computer. This is where to find real human value. 

Because no one really wants a dashboard. 

A bold statement, we know, but stay with us. We don’t want the dashboard, what we want is the confidence to make decisions. To choose one path, to put more money in one venture, to double down on one customer profile over all the others. Charts and graphs and data are wonderful (we make a lot of them ourselves), but only if we can do something with them. 

We have to remember that information isn’t the destination, it’s not the point. Instead, the decision is the destination. That’s what really matters. All that information just helps us get there. 

Everyone wants to be able to predict the future—to believe that they’re making the right decision for their business. The update to Google Sheets is another step on the path to democratizing data within organizations. It makes it easier to access, update and dig into your company's information—the stuff that really matters—and, most importantly, generate more meaningful insights from it. It means that the people at the keyboards don’t spend time trying to make data useful, instead, we spend time making use of the data. 

We always like to dig into the latest and greatest from Google. We hope we’ve given you some things to think about when it comes to making your next big business move, and how it can be one based on exceptional information, and not just intuition.

Blog post by Erin Hayes and Saadat Qadri

Brian Jeffcock