Spreadsheets are an accountant’s favourite tool: Easy to learn, easy to share, infinitely adaptable and flexible. As such they are often the first port of call when performing deep dive analysis or ad-hoc financial planning activities. 

However, relying on spreadsheets to drive structured business processes such as a Budget introduces substantial risk to the outcome, not to mention frustrating your key resource, your people.

Sound familiar? Here are some 5 areas that will help you reconsider spreadsheet based Excel as the central tool in your Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) arsenal.

1.)   The Consolidation Nightmare
2.)   What’s an Audit again?
3.)   Performance Management
4.)   Key Man Dependency
5.)   We all know it can be done better

Let’s break down each of these areas.

1.) The Consolidation Nightmare

Different versions, formats, requirements, reporting outputs, inputs, not to mention file volumes and storage requirements. Who is looking after it all and keeping track of all the different supporting documents?

What happens when Division C re-submits their documents, or worse, want to go back to the version they used three days ago? What happens when there is a regulation change like IFRS9 or 15, how will these changes to the process be controlled? Sound familiar?

If you don’t have a degree in quantum theory it may be too much to manage. This leads nicely to the “Consolidation Nightmare” – Each division submits inconsistent documents, at 5pm on a Friday and have somehow managed to add a line in different places. The master consolidation spreadsheet no longer works so someone has to go through it and identify where the input source changed. Every time a requirement adapts the reports the entire suite needs to be re-worked to ensure consolidation works. But it never does. I’m twitching.

The pain is real.

2.) What’s an Audit again?

A plethora of different reports and documents could provide controllers a lot to review. If the processes were standardised and controlled it would provide a lot more confidence to all interested parties that the process is run smoothly and without fault. Because spreadsheets by nature are so flexible, you don’t have a guarantee that what you see is what you get. How do you know it is the whole picture?

3.) Performance Management

One of the key objectives of a budgeting cycle is to produce a plan through which business performance is controlled. If the spreadsheet nightmare and consolidation Nightmare haven’t already forced the FP&A team to cut corners to make the budget work, they then have to wrestle the budgeting data from all those multitudes of inputs into a format that works with the actual data that is available. The time and effort required for this BAU activity can be a serious drain on your resources and motivation.

4.) Key Person Dependency

Mr X in Accounts wrote a Macro that “Does it all”. Wonderful. Until he leaves the company, leaving you exposed with a bespoke system that no-one else knows or can support. No amount of process notes will transfer that knowledge before he goes. What about Jane who coordinates all those different spreadsheets and versions we talked about in “Spreadsheet Nightmare”. If she gets promoted, who has the capability to manage the volume and complexity of the submissions?

Standardisation is a key benefit of systems that can both simplify your business processes but also make them more transparent.

5.) We All Know It Can Be Done Better

From obtaining data from various sources and updating spreadsheets to compiling reports and graph packs for senior executives, processes often expand to fill the available time. As a result there is likely no available time to improve the processes or conduct meaningful analysis.

FP&A teams often have huge capabilities and business knowledge but as long as they are tied up in the manual processing of reports they are unable to add value to the business. Automation and the centralisation are the bread and butter of all major BI tools. Imagine being able to keep track of performance on a daily basis… it’s possible.

So what are the solutions to these very common ailments of spreadsheet-based FP&A activity? At Assimil8, we understand that using spreadsheets to run your planning process is too slow and risky. For agile planning, you need a solution that’s easy, scalable, and fast. 

Speed, agility and foresight in one solution

Contact us to find out more about one of the most powerful, flexible and easy-to-use solutions for planning, forecasting, budgeting and analysis on the market. Even better, you can choose whether to deploy on-premise or on the cloud – without a lengthy migration time.

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