New research shows almost half of users struggle to make sense of data in spreadsheets

70% of business people are not proficient in spreadsheets despite users spending 20 hours a month on average in them

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — October 27, 2022 – A new survey from Sapio Research in partnership with ThoughtSpot, the Modern Analytics Cloud company, reveals that while 92% of business people need to manipulate their spreadsheet data to make it understandable, 40% of them often struggle to make sense of the their data in these sheets. In spite of their ubiquitous nature, many struggle to make the most of spreadsheets, which poses the question: how much potential value is being lost?

Spreadsheets remain a mainstay of the business tools suite

The survey found that spreadsheets are one of the most common, pervasive tools in the modern office suite, with the average knowledge worker spending more than 20 hours a month within them. Excel remains the most common (85%), followed by Google Sheets (55%), Apple Sheets (18%), and Zoho Sheets (11%). While their use varies, data analysis tops the list of use cases cited by respondents (63%), followed by finance and accounting (51%), sales (40%), HR (30%), and marketing (24%).

Despite their widespread use, most business people still struggle with the data living in their spreadsheets. Almost all survey respondents (92%) need to manipulate the data in their spreadsheets to make it understandable, taking on average an hour for any one data set. Sectors like Banking & Finance take much longer, with almost three hours spent making the data comprehensible. 

While all this time might be spent analyzing their spreadsheet data, only 30% of respondents would describe their proficiency with spreadsheets as “advanced” or better.

Despite time spent, 70% of users don’t consider themselves advanced or masters of spreadsheets

Familiarity and comfort with spreadsheets varies drastically by gender, region, and sector. Males (42%) are twice as likely to be confident in their proficiency as females (21%). The divide is deepest between US male respondents who are the most likely to consider themselves proficient (57%), compared to Australian women who are the least likely (16%).  Nearly half (47%) of US workers believe they have an average level of spreadsheet proficiency, two to three times that of respondents in the UK (25%) and Australia (18%). And while US respondents rank highest in their perceived proficiency levels, 50% revealed they struggle to make sense of the data that lives in spreadsheets as compared to 34% in Australia and 36% in the UK.

Regardless of their proficiency, most office workers spend significant amounts of time and energy working with their data in sheets, whether for rudimentary uses such as building charts and graphs, or more advanced data analysis capabilities. The features that respondents use the most in spreadsheets are rows and columns (59%), formulas (50%) and data filtering (42%), which can be considered spreadsheet basics. The majority of office workers (87%) build graphs and charts from their spreadsheet data, and less than half of them (44%) find doing so easy. On average, building a single chart takes an average user twenty minutes or more. More advanced features and tools like VLOOKUPs and pivot tables are even less likely to be used, with fewer than a third of respondents citing familiarity. These challenges are not uniformly experienced; while on average 40% of workers struggle to make sense of their data in spreadsheets, it’s especially difficult for those in utilities (60%), Tourism (50%), and IT and Technology (49%).

Spreadsheets require living data

To make the most of any capability in spreadsheets often requires leveraging the most current, up to date data possible. However, most users are manually fetching data themselves or asking a data professional in their organization to do so. Only 34% of users have data automatically delivered to sheets. Companies in the US are ahead, with half of users saying they get their data automatically in their spreadsheets, while only roughly a quarter of users in the UK and Australia say the same.  

“Spreadsheets really aren’t for everybody. Just like data analysts can easily be lumped into one bucket, not everybody has the same proficiency with spreadsheets. These research findings make it clear that while billions of Google Sheets users are still hosting their modern analytics in spreadsheets, it's really hard for most people to ask questions and visualize their data quickly. The question then becomes, how do you make spreadsheet data more easy to use and more accessible?” said Sean Zinsmeister, SVP of Product Marketing at ThoughtSpot. “That’s our goal with launching ThoughtSpot for Sheets, let's make true self-service analytics a reality for every person by bringing intuitive search, drill down and visualizations to Google Sheets users so they can back every decision they make with data.”

Historically, analyzing the data in these sheets required a deep understanding of spreadsheet best practices and operations, or moving this data into an analytics solution. ThoughtSpot for Sheets dramatically simplifies this process by bringing search and drill-down features directly to your Google Sheets. Learn more here.


ThoughtSpot commissioned Sapio Research to conduct a survey among workers who use spreadsheets in their role which would uncover their proficiency, use cases, and time spent with data living in spreadsheets. Sapio Research surveyed 1001 office workers from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States in October 2022 using an email invitation and an online survey. 

About ThoughtSpot

ThoughtSpot is the Modern Analytics Cloud company. Our mission is to create a more fact-driven world with the easiest to use analytics platform. With ThoughtSpot, anyone can leverage natural language search and AI to find data insights and tap into the most cutting edge innovations the cloud data ecosystem has to offer. Companies can put the power of their modern data stack in the hands of every employee, extend the value of their data to partners and customers, and automate entire business processes. ThoughtSpot enables everyone within an organization to limitlessly engage with live data regardless of their cloud data platform, making it easy to achieve granular, actionable insights through Live Analytics. Customers can take advantage of ThoughtSpot’s web and mobile applications to improve decision making for every employee. With ThoughtSpot’s developer-friendly platform, ThoughtSpot Everywhere, customers can also bring the Modern Analytics Cloud to their products and services, engaging users and keep them coming back for more. Organizations like BT, T-Mobile, Snowflake, HubSpot, Exxon, Daimler, Medtronic, Hulu, Royal Bank of Canada, Nasdaq, OpenTable, Workato, and Nationwide Building Society rely on ThoughtSpot to transform how their employees and customers take advantage of data. See for yourself and try ThoughtSpot today.

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