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Budgeting - Don't Abandon the Spreadsheet

A common topic on any business forum is whether Excel is a reliable, management tool.  One thing is for certain, spreadsheets have been very successful in terms of adoption – in fact few companies would be able to plan or report their activities without them. In a recent FP&A technology survey published by gtnews (http://goo.gl/KHbWs3), 73% of respondents report that Excel is used for more than half of the analytical work at their organisation and nearly 60% use it for reporting.  However, the debate tends to focus on whether it’s the right tool given its limitations and why organisations do not move to specialist applications for budgeting, forecasting and management reporting. In general people use Excel because of its low cost (everyone has a copy), flexibility, ‘ease of use’ (for the simple stuff), has great formatting and charting capabilities, and is widely available - even from home. That’s something you can't say that about today’s Business Intelligence and planning solutions. The same survey showed that only 37% of respondents use a specialised system, and of those only 24% use one of the mainstream systems such as Cognos TM1, Hyperion Planning and SAP BPC. Of course vendors would disagree on the cost and ease of use issues – but there again they already know the capabilities (and more important the limitations) of their products and they don’t have to buy them. In contrast, those who use Excel are well aware of its limitations, particularly in the areas of managing different users with multiple spreadsheets, controlling submissions and versions with different layouts, and in maintaining business rules that rely on non-descript cell references. These can be overcome with careful design and in the use of macros and other clever capabilities such as pivot tables.
Interestingly, the survey also revealed that the prime challenge organisations face is in reducing the amount of time spent on identifying and correcting spreadsheet programs. This dilemma reveals where the ‘Excel/No Excel’ debate falls down - both sides say the other side has got it wrong. But there is an alternative position – both are right and it’s a question of combining the best of both worlds. Financial Driver is a new breed of planning and reporting software that has been designed with simplicity and cost in mind. For example, administrator training takes around 2 hours after which users can build an enterprise wide model to collect and consolidate budgets, forecasts and produce management reports. Financial Driver replaces the limiting factors of the spreadsheet by being multi-user where everyone accesses, security permitting, one database; presents those users with just their data; controls the collection of budget/forecasts along with an approval process; locks people out of making changes; and is able to perform automatic currency conversion into a designated base currency. However, users are then provided with a single, central source of data spanning the whole organisation and multiple years for reporting and analysis. Through the built-in strict security controls, they access this database through Excel where they can take advantage of the rich formatting, charting and analysis capabilities. In terms of cost, Financial Driver is cloud-based which means there is no software or hardware to buy or maintain. All user access is via a standard web-browser. Set up only takes a couple of days and the only cost is a low monthly rental fee. In fact those who just want to report via Excel, there is no cost.
The benefits of our approach can be tremendous. One of our customers saves around 80 days each year by enhancing their use of spreadsheets with Financial Driver.

"As the brand grew … sending Excel spreadsheets to ever more members of the team was fraught with problems. With Financial Driver we have eliminated the time and cost of checking sheets, re-inputting or re-pasting figures, and the issues with linking and collating data. We can now focus on producing meaningful and useful reports for the business." UK Fashion Retailer

So if you’re looking to replace your spreadsheets, don’t abandon them completely. Instead, why don’t you enhance their capabilities and replace those areas that cause the problems? To find out more email us at info@financialdriver.com.