Forcing upon us remote work, COVID-19 has drastically altered the way business is done.
Spreadsheets were built for the distributed workforce. But when you’re dealing with masses and masses of spreadsheets, there are many points to consider. How do you account for version control, audit control, backups, security, and scalability?
I’ll address all of this. But first, I’ll start with a reminder of why Excel is the past, present, and future of finance.
“If you take Excel away, the business is going to come to a stop.
There’s no ifs, ands or buts about that.”
-Khaled Chowdhury, FP&A, KMG Chemicals
Excel is synonymous with finance, and it’s not going anywhere.
Excel’s simple user interface makes it easy to understand and use, and years of usage within organizations has fostered a hard-wired dependency amongst users. Despite the existence of spreadsheet alternatives, people continue to stay in and depend on Excel.
Every company is unique, and each one has built financial models over the years that help them perform better. A company that has been holding its budget/forecast processes on spreadsheets for years has built their financial IP (Intellectual property) into their spreadsheets.
This point is one of the biggest problems of CFOs in taking the decision to move away from the good old model to a new one. No technology seems to have all the flexibility & formatting capability of Excel, and no one is promising that a new system will work as well as the old one. Many dedicated systems come with their own built-in models, meaning that users are expected to adapt themselves to the software, not the other way around.
Culture and Habit
From end-users who are filling in templates to management, people love Excel. They use it all the time and a company that is used to working with Excel for conducting financial calculations and processes often just wants to keep it that way.
“There are always some people who have their routines, and they just don’t want to change,” says Michael C. Mankins, a partner in Bain & Company’s San Francisco office and the leader of the firm’s organization practice in the Americas.
You’ll also often find employees exporting data from other systems to Excel and working with it there. Finance teams frequently conduct complex levels of analysis in spreadsheets. Data manipulation and examination is easy to conduct in Excel, so why not?
To summarize- Excel works.
What’s the problem then?
Working with dedicated systems+ exporting + importing back into the system often leads to mistakes. And with employees working remotely, issues like multiple versions, poor traceability, limited control, and slow, error-prone manual processes are exacerbated tenfold.
How can finance work be improved, with little to no change?
The answer is with Datarails. Let teams keep working on their native spreadsheets as information is automatically synced onto a secure, structured database that is stored on the cloud. In turn you’ll gain access to accurate data and traceability, all in one place. While your work processes are enhanced significantly, you and your employees won’t feel a thing.
What sets Datarails apart from other cloud-based planning platforms is this hallmark feature- the fact that it’s Excel-based, meaning that it doesn’t change the way employees currently work and requires little to no organizational culture change. Datarails is an adaptive tool that brings much needed agility and flexibility to financial management, particularly during these turbulent times.
Datarails is based on a first-of-its-kind algorithm capable of extracting and analyzing complex organizational data, and what that means is that irrespective of data structure or source ( ERP, GL, HR or spreadsheets), you can put all data onto one database. View the full history of a cell, including values and formulas that have changed over time. Automate any data preparation process (like consolidations, FX conversions, eliminations, drill-downs and variance analyses), benefit from comprehensive and error-free numbers, and access up-to-date operating expenses to strategically plan and allocate future expenditures based on real-time numbers consolidated from your disparate organizational systems.
”[With Datarails] I now have a complete and comprehensive hands-off solution to manage my financial operations data…which affords me additional control and a birds-eye view over the entire process.”
– Rob Grasso, Director of Sales Operations, Bauer Hockey
Address Excel’s shortcomings- You’ll win big.
With Datarails, finance professionals can access and leverage financial and operational data independently, regardless of technical competency. This means the finance team can easily support planning, analysis and reporting needs on-the-go to drive faster and more effective decisions.
End-users keep using Excel while executives benefit from superior access to data and novel insights. With Datarails’ effortless, automated, and accurate solution, employees can spend less time putting the numbers together and more time thinking about what they mean, all without leaving Excel. Now that’s a win-win.
Datarails is developing a business augmented intelligence platform for the corporate finance function. Our FP&A solution allows for the connection and centralization of all organizational financial data from various systems (ERP, GL, CRM) alongside Excel spreadsheets and operational data. It also allows for the creation of automated financial reports (P&L, cash-flow, budgets, etc.), as well as thorough analysis of consolidated data for the creation of business and financial insights.