Carlson Thought Leadership in Finance & Technology

Spreadsheet Horror Storytime

October 31, 2018 / by Lauren Strohmeier

Spreadsheet Horror StoriesIt’s time to get into the spirit of Halloween!

With the spookiest holiday of the year, comes the thrill of costumes, candy, pumpkin carving, and haunted houses. As we celebrate all things strange, see how finance has its own moments of fright.

Are you ready for a scare?

Welcome to the nightmare of spreadsheet-based finance, where spreadsheet inadequacies summon the ghosts of financial troubles.

Read on as three Carlson consultants tell horror stories that will give you chills. You will get an inside peek into how spreadsheets haunt the world of finance.



Clint Whelan, Senior Associate

Clint-Whelan-Carlson-550-400-1“In a role prior to joining Carlson, after spending two months working on financial plans for a large client, the end was finally in sight. We were scheduled to launch a new reporting structure on Friday, and I had just about put the finishing touches on my spreadsheet. I just needed data from the latest trial balance to finalize the numbers.

While I was waiting on the report, Alyssa offered to jump into the sheet and tweak any formatting inconsistencies, to which I happily agreed. Then, as the entire office was leaving for happy hour, they convinced me to come along (after all, I deserved it and could easily pull the final data the next day before the handoff on Friday). I rolled into the office on Thursday, found the file I needed, and opened up the spreadsheet.

“Locked by Alyssa," it read.

I took a deep breath and tried again. “Locked by Alyssa”. I decided not to panic and messaged Alyssa.

“Out of Office”."

Aude-Stewart-senior-associate-550-400Aude Stewart, Support Manager

“Prior to joining Carlson, I worked at a company many years ago as a FP&A Manager.

Before we implemented Adaptive Insights, we had a monstrous Excel file with many sheets linked to each other. Because the file was manipulated by many individuals, even with locked cells and such, one of the links broke.

It was not discovered until after the board had approved the budget, which meant that one division was seriously under-budgeted for normal course of business. It was very unfortunate and, while the FP&A team did not cause the issue, we were the gatekeepers of the budget process and failed to produce a sound budget.”

Jotham-Lane-director_550-400Jotham Lane, Director

“As finance professionals, we have all seen budgeting and forecasting models that could be considered a spreadsheet nightmare. They usually consist of several sheets, linked from one sheet to the next with formulas and calculations that always carry the risk of either being incorrect or accidentally broken.

Another area we often come across that ups the ante from nightmare to full blown horror story is when a client tries to consolidate in Excel spreadsheets. Consolidations in the ERP system for many clients is often not in the cards. Reasons include having numerous GL or ERP systems, different Charts of Accounts, or the inability to translate foreign currencies to a reporting currency. With so many small-and-medium organizations doing business in a multi-national setting, it is quickly becoming one of the biggest challenges in reporting and planning.

In a recent scenario, a client was required to plan and report one entity in Indian Rupees. It was then converted to U.S. Dollars, where it was consolidated with another U.S. entity, before finally being converted again to EUR. Not only did the client have to keep each trial balance and budget model in a spreadsheet in local currency; they also needed to keep spreadsheets that held the currency translation rates, a sheet to convert to USD, one to consolidate in USD, and a sheet that was translated to EUR. As this organization grew and began to open locations in other countries, the spreadsheets increased.

By leveraging the consolidation tools available in Adaptive Insights, this client was able to map multiple COAs into one master COA, utilize the translation rates, and correctly calculate currency translation adjustments.”

Have you experienced any horrific moments with spreadsheets? If you can relate to any of these stories, there is a way to chase away the ghosts of financial troubles.

Adaptive Insights, the cloud business planning solution, gives you a better way to manage your core operations and finances. You’ll feel relief as you experience efficient processes, top results-producing teams, and enhanced financial performance that come with transitioning from spreadsheets to a cloud-based solution.

For more information on how Adaptive Insights can help your organization, we encourage you to contact us for a discovery call.


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