Remember your very first excel spreadsheet of vital financial information you produced for management? How long did it take you to produce? How many times did you check the numbers? What about the accuracy of the links and that magic macro that allocated those costs so scientifically?
How proud you were when you worked out that magic formula. Was the time spent on producing this report met with the same level of respect by the receiver? Are you still producing reports from Excel? Does your time and stress of managing your Excel reports reflect good financial practice?
I often ask myself why finance teams are still using Excel for all of their reporting and budgeting requirements. What is the connection? Is it fear?
I have spoken with many customers over the years and here is a summary of their comments:
• The guy before me used Excel
• Excel is the only way to produce reports
• I have used Excel for years
• The finance system does not produce the reports that management want
• I need the chart functions of Excel
• I need to capture information from multiple sources
• Everybody uses Excel
• The business is changing too much at the moment for me to consider any other method.
All of these so called benefits of Excel fall short when you measure them against auditability and the time to produce information from the so called flexible Excel environment. The more manually reports are derived and the more one does not use system derived data, the more risk one takes on the accuracy of the reports. Audit control should be automated not a late night function of the finance team.
Management reporting is more than just P&L and balance sheet versus budgets. Managers want to keep an eye on the problems and not have to search through the financial numbers to see what is truly happening in the business or what caused ‘that’ number. The time spent by managers who have to further manipulate your Excel reports to analyse the business would be better spent in the operations, fixing the problem so that it doesn’t happen again.
Managers want and need financial information more regularly than just the month end report packs. What about the mobile workforce? What do your Excel reports look like on a PDA (Blackberry, iPhone, etc). How do you know if your reports are being used? What version did you send them? So many questions that Excel doesn’t answer.
So I’m left to ponder Excel – what is it good for?
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