So I wanted to drop in a few thoughts about the Google Sheets tool now that I’ve had the chance to use it with more purpose than random IFTTT tweaks (which is still possibly my favourite thing).
I think when paired with Custom Categories - it makes for the two best features of Plus - but unfortunately I think there’s enough lacking in the implementation of it, that make it not quite as useful as a paid product should be. I’ll explain.
To summarise: My feeling is it was designed from a point of “how do we make our CSV export a live tool”, rather than “what’s the optimal use of the data we’re exporting” or “how will users use this data”.
The Good Stuff
- It’s live - and therefore it removes as much friction in making use of the data as possible. I barely touched CSV export even though it was just as available.
- It updates itself (mostly) - which means my exported data is also live - changes are therefore better tracked and means dashboards are genuinely live. Good stuff.
- If you have the knowledge, you can make pretty decent dashboards and workflows with the data. But there’s a barrier to entry.
- And when you pair that with Custom Categories, you can really get a powerful overview of what your spending looks like.
These things alone are a really helpful tool to help change behaviours - just seeing my spending patterns change month to month is great, or my savings balances creep up month to month - I think the views this allows is what I’ve always missed from Monzo’s in app views - it tells no story, it doesn’t give a view of growth like a chart does.
The Could Be Improved Stuff
My first problem comes with the way Monzo have decided to structure the data set, and what information needs including in that. As I said above, I don’t think this feature has been designed in a “what is the end goal a user might want” type of way.
To expand on some examples of why that’s the case:
- The data, in my view, is not well future proofed - what happens if Joint Accounts (or connected accounts) come in and they suddenly add an ‘account’ field - every dashboard built needs updating.
- Some key information is missed - it’s not much but I don’t get a view of my Pot Interest in this data
- Some Plus features are not represented in the data - if I paid with a Virtual Card, and which one, is data I’d like to have available.
Those three things there mean that changes to the data structure in future will break other things.
Beyond the structure alone - some of the interactions with other parts of the Monzoverse become a bit weird:
- Split Categories - It’s not easy to turn a split category into a spending overview (you can use formula that turn the splits into cells, but then that becomes harder to graph, or you can use a ScriptSee note below about this too, apparently, but that is probably a small subset of users who will do that). And summarising that data gets a bit messy (I’ve got a monthly category summary, that now has 4 long sumifs to do each category split).
- And building on that because changing custom category names doesn’t retroactively adjust the category names in the Data Export - you can easily make inconsistencies in the data set, and break how your analysis elsewhere works.
I think for a paid feature, the ‘gaps’ or future flaws this can cause is sub optimal - and I really think the design should be considered from the end-goal of what do users want to do with the data, and how does this feature enable that.
And if you pair that with the limit on Custom Categories limitations (50 max, and no nesting yet), my ideal data set will not be as detailed as I would like it to be.
On my note about scripts to split categories - The barrier to entry is quite high, and there’s no useful way to do it: If you do it to your raw data feed - it can break the data (per the warning) - and if you import the data into another feed, and try and script that, you break the import (I think).
What new stuff would be good too?
I’d really love to see a ‘library’ of Google Sheet templates - there’s been so many discussions in the forum about Dashboards (which always makes me happy) - but imagine how many more users would get the joy of Dashboarding if Monzo made an accessible library of them? (is that a book by the way, The Life Changing Magic of Google Sheets Dashboarding. Should be if not)
Linked to that - show case some of the great things you can do with this data now! I primarily got Plus because of the Data. I’d love to hear more widely what other people do with it. (There’s a great example Monzo retweeted about someone plugging it into another more powerful data tool - which is by no means an ‘entry level’ thing to do - but IFTTT tweaks etc are!)
I’d also love much more powerful analytics in app - I look to my Google Sheet because I can’t see any trends in the way I’d like in app. Summary has some basic views yes, but I’d like to slice the data differently, in an in-app kind of way. Hopefully that will come in time.
Bring in connected card data too - even if it’s only daily balances, I would love it - but a future where you can categorise your connceted card transactions?! swoon
Find a way to show payments direct to pots too - so I’m not missing part of my picture.
I know things are early days, and hopefully some of this will come
As it stands, I am desparate for Monzo to allow me to replace YNAB with an “in Monzo” solution - I don’t think Sheets yet does that for me - but I hope in time it can.
So yeah, a few thoughts. Any other takes out there on the Sheets stuff?