The modern business environment is synonymous with new technology. Much of the past few decades have been spent in what can be viewed as a technology renaissance of sorts. As departments have advanced their abilities to capitalize on data that is produced as a result of this new technology, finance departments and FP&A analysts find themselves somewhat stuck in the past.
Microsoft Excel has been the industry standard for spreadsheet applications since its fifth version was introduced in 1993, replacing the Lotus 1-2-3 system as the industry standard. This means that finance departments are still heavily entrenched in a technology that is approaching 30-years old.
Learning how to become a technology-leading CFO requires learning ways to elevate Excel. Modern financial leaders will need to make a decision on whether or not they wish to bring their departments into the modern era of software applications and continue to use a system that is approaching its thirtieth year of service.
Why Excel Remains King Of The Tools
Many companies have tried and failed at taking on Excel. Software as a Solution (SaaS) businesses have tried to take on Excel at the top level, meaning they wish to be a system replacement rather than a system add-on.
The challenges that SaaS faces when attempting to take on Excel is that the system has been used for nearly three decades and is the standard system taught in all institutions. Even non-finance professionals rely on and use Excel heavily. Therefore, SaaS has no real shot at ever taking on Excel as a full replacement.
Ironically, the fact that most SaaS is attempting to replace Excel is the exact reason that they are unable to do it. Trying to replace an industry standard that is so perfectly formatted and entrenched in the everyday business activities of so many professionals across the globe is no small feat.
The conundrum that CFOs face is the need to replace Excel with a more robust solution, while still providing a user experience that has the familiarity and flexibility of Excel. Therefore, the best solutions to replacing Excel are actually ancillary systems that work to enhance its abilities.
Systems That Enhance Excel As A Solution
The typical technology model includes implementing a new solution as a replacement to an older or more outdated application. This occurs throughout the natural course of all software applications. Usually, applications undergo version shifts and updates that force users to upgrade their software at regular intervals.
These upgrades often introduce new functionality, fix bugs, and enhance user interface experiences. Despite several software updates, Excel remains largely the same concept today as in 1993, although it has introduced more functionality over time. This has created a dependence on the software as users are extremely comfortable using the interface and because it is a spreadsheet with a lot of flexibility, there is a wide range of applications for Excel.
This leaves CFOs who wish to become technology leaders to identify and source compliments to the system that enhance user experience, offer more robust functionality, and is still cost-effective.
There are many ways that software applications enhance Excel, here some of them:
- Add-Ons – Perhaps the most common form of Excel enhancement is the use of add-ons that provide resource packs of varying degrees for users. Data Analytics is a common Excel add-on.
- Ancillary Platforms – Ancillary platforms run “on top” of Excel and accomplish varying degrees of functionality. Some ancillary platforms add dashboard functionality or other reporting methods that enhance the user experience by making it easier to create and deliver reporting or run more complex queries through Excel.
- Databases – Databases provide data connection sources for Excel which can be used to automatically or autonomously generate real-time information for Excel to query.
Across the various ways applications enhance Excel, there are many firms that are creating these products. Below are four examples of software applications that enhance Excel:
Technology That Elevates Excel
- Caspio – a web-based platform that allows users to convert Excel spreadsheets into cloud-based applications.
- Analyse-IT – an Excel add-on that creates additional statistical analysis resource packs.
- ASAP Utilities – a group of Excel add-ons that helps users by replacing formula writing with a more intuitive way to create queries in spreadsheets.
- Datarails – A financial analytics platform that provides users with the ability to create robust dashboards and provides finance professionals with an enhanced FP&A solution.
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, the problem with the current market solutions is that they only effectively accomplish a single task. Of all the current market solutions Datarails is the most robust offering users the ability to perform both complex and rudimentary tasks autonomously in the comfort of Excel.
Datarails Enhances Excels By Integrating Various Solutions Into One
Out of the multitude of software applications that enhance Excel, Datarails differs by providing a more well-rounded and robust solution that enhances user experiences on a variety of fronts. The most notable benefit of using Datarails is that it sits within native Excel user interfaces, meaning users can continue to operate and work in the comfort and familiarity of Excel.
The obvious benefit of this is that any user who is competent in Excel can easily use and become familiar with Datarails. This reduces time spent on training and cost associated with the lost efficiency.
One of the more differentiating aspects of Datarails is that it solves the technology gap by providing finance leaders with the ability to perform a multitude of tasks over Excel. Dashboards can be created and autonomously linked to real-time data sources. Charts and graphs can be embedded into Powerpoint and placed on the cloud which updates continuously with real-time data connections.
Datarails effectively solves the technology gap by providing the best of the ancillary solutions that act as add-ons or databases and replaces them with one cohesive solution that connects to dynamic data sources, automates reports, performs automated account reconciliations, creates visually stunning and responsive financial dashboards, and allows users to continue to operate in the comfort and flexibility of Excel.
Using Datarails, a Budgeting and Forecasting Solution
Datarails enhances spreadsheets with real-time data and integrates fragmented workbooks and data sources into one centralized location. This allows users to work in the comfort of Microsoft Excel with the support of a much more sophisticated data management system at their disposal.
Every finance department knows how tedious building a budget and forecast can be. Integrating cash flow forecasts with real-time data and up-to-date budgets is a powerful tool that makes forecasting cash easier, more efficient, and shifts the focus to cash analytics.
Regardless of the budgeting approach your organization adopts, it requires big data to ensure accuracy, timely execution, and of course, monitoring.
Datarails is an enhanced data management tool that can help your team create and monitor cash flow against budgets faster and more accurately than ever before.