Carlson Thought Leadership in Finance & Technology

Is There Still a Role for Spreadsheets in Finance?

October 30, 2015 / by Jotham Lane

Spreadsheets-dont-work-485-277Let’s face it - spreadsheets will have a role and offer value to finance to some extent for the foreseeable future. As a “spreadsheet jockey” myself, I use them primarily for ad hoc analysis and reporting. One of the questions that needs to be asked though is, does your FP&A team spend 80% of their time getting data into reports and tying them out for analysis and only 20% of the time actually analyzing the data? Or, do they spend 20% preparing reports and 80% on analysis. If it's the former, which is actually quite common, then you should seriously consider an alternative to spreadsheets. While many in finance tend to want to stick with what they know, not using a more appropriate technology is a disservice your FP&A team and organization as a whole. Outstanding spreadsheet skills do not necessarily translate into added value for the organization. Understanding the business and using the proper tools for analysis helps to develop your team AND add value to your organization.

Winston-Churchill-614-298Furthermore, if spreadsheets are preventing you from producing a rolling 12 month forecast, you should consider a different technology. In my experience, by the time most spreadsheet-based budgets have been completed, they are already obsolete. As Winston Churchill famously said, He who fails to plan is planning to fail. I would take that truism further and say that He who produces obsolete plans is wasting his time and putting his company at risk. The forecasting process should be built on a budget and then updated regularly so that management can understand issues before they become crises and have the time to act. Cloud CPM technologies, and Adaptive Insights in particular, are purpose-built for this and are able to do so efficiently. Thus it frees up the FP&A team to focus more on developing expert knowledge of the business and ensuring the budget aligns with strategy. It also elevates the role of FP&A in the eyes of the executive team and the broader organization as they are able to proactively identify challenges that are on the horizon and then collaboratively seek out solutions.

So, yes, spreadsheets still have a role in finance but they should be relegated to more appropriate niche tasks while more capable cloud CPM solutions become the tool of choice for FP&A teams.

Ready to look beyond spreadsheets for your FP&A team?  Please contact me to discuss the benefits of Adaptive Insights, the #1 cloud CPM solution.

 

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