Excel in the financial management of companies: limitations of its use and recommendations
We are not going to deny it; the use of Excel in the financial management of companies was a great evolution at the time. Microsoft software changed the way corporations were run.
However, the dynamics of business is dizzying, and in the second decade of the 21st century, this same evolution has led technology to provide us with better corporate finance management tools, specifically designed to meet the needs of those who make decisions in this area.
The arrival in the Latin American market of the FP&A solutions segment makes it easier for SMEs and start-ups in the region to access a superior instrument for managing corporate finances.
Why do we say this? In this blog post we are going to offer our point of view as experts in FP&A and in economic and financial management of companies about why we are convinced that you should analyze investing in FP&A software to make a quality leap from management of Excel you are using.
Use of Excel in Financial Management: it always worked for us, why change now?
We know that the good is the enemy of the best (“Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien”, Voltaire), but we resist change. It happens to all of us, it's natural, and that's why we end up clinging to the success formula that got us here, right?
All organizations have a battery of Excel files scattered throughout the management areas, and this is not by chance: it is undoubtedly an excellent tool in which most of us feel comfortable to carry out our work. But of course, we are just a part of integral processes, and the application of these spreadsheets at the corporate level, sooner or later, turns out to be ineffective.
In this sense, let us point out some limitations of the use of Excel in the financial management of companies. As you will see below, some are purely technical and others have more to do with functional aspects. Let's see:
- To have information in real time in Excel, you must establish a connection to a database. This is sub-optimal and inefficient (only a common BI tool is already superior).
- Excel is not an easy tool to customize: those who do it are usually super users. That is, analysts from the systems team or users with great ductility to manipulate this type of tools, but they are very few (and it is not what should be asked, for example, of a finance professional).
- When working in a collaborative environment, Excel can become tedious, because not everyone knows what to modify, how to modify it, and how not to break what another user has already created. That is, it is not intended for workflow work between multiple users.
In the following link, official from Microsoft, you will be able to see better the detail of the technical limitations of the tool: Specifications and limits of Excel (microsoft.com)
So, how can I improve the financial management of my company?
We want you to get to know the new segment of Cloud Financial Planning & Analysis solutions, through our free demo account. There you can preview a tool that we believe will empower your organization's finance work teams. The eventual purchase of a Financial Planning & Analysis service will allow you to:
- become more efficient and, therefore, save valuable time, optimizing daily management through the use of software specifically thought out and designed for this type of operation,
- improve the quality of the presentations, since it is a tool that integrates BI solutions for the assembly of reports and graphs,
- add value to the executive decision-making process, by putting on the table reliable information presented in a friendly way for non-specialized audiences,
- model business projections more finely, based on past results. In addition, it is possible to track financial metrics and KPIs in order to consolidate trends and look for points of improvement to adjust if necessary.
An FP&A solution meets all the needs of the finance area of an organization, whatever its size. Using powerful software, it combines the virtues of the Excel spreadsheets that we mentioned above, together with the functionalities of an ERP, a CRM and the classic business intelligence systems that all our companies have, bringing them together in an ideal product for staff of finance.
Through an FP&A tool you can optimize the analysis of company information, see what the data offers you from a superior perspective: you can ask the tool for the data segmentation you require in a friendly and efficient way.
Now, an FP&A is not just another add-on, but involves the many aspects required by a CFO. In such a solution you will be able to obtain centralized reporting packages, with reliable data presented in a practical way. In addition, you can automate the generation of reports and presentations, which means valuable extra time that the team can spend on tasks that require intelligence and human sensitivity, such as data analysis and decision making.
What is F&A?
FP&A (Financial Planning & Analysis) is the process of forecasting the performance of a company as a support for making strategic decisions. For this, the collection, purification, transformation and analysis of data is carried out in order to obtain an image, a map, of the current state of the organization, and in this way to be able to make forecasts about its future. By making these forecasts, the company can more consistently take the next steps.
The finance teams are responsible for executing the FP&A, but for this they need a powerful and customized tool to accompany such a task. Data collection and processing are already a huge challenge in themselves, as is presenting them in an effective way, where communication to executives, directors and shareholders of a company is as assertive as possible.
Historically, in our SMEs, the process was carried out by manually sifting through the information scattered in innumerable Excel sheets, the company's ERP and management software that covered a specific area (for example, logistics management, stock etc). This led to the conflictive situation that the finance team "invested" more time in this type of work than in the ones that add the most value to the business: forecasting and information analysis.
Does this also happen in your organization? Do you feel identified with what we are telling? Fortunately, FP&A software solutions have evolved, and they come to lend us a very important hand with this. Let's see what advantages it offers us!
Advantages of FP&A over Excel in financial management
The use of FP&A technology streamlines the entire financial planning process, from start to finish, empowering the company's finance team. A good solution allows data to be extracted from multiple diverse sources and facilitates the preparation of periodic forecasts, managing to function as an information, analysis and decision-making center for the direction and management of an organization.
Regarding the advantages of an FP&A solution over Excel in financial management, we can list several points:
- will allow your team to interact in multi-user mode, decentralizing the need to edit and work on reports,
- you will be able to assign a security configuration that respects the editing levels of the documents by type of user and category,
- you will be able to apply approval flows in a simple way, without complications and without the need to be a tech friend or have to resort to the service’s Help Desk or the internal systems team,
- you will be able to automate repetitive tasks that consume valuable staff time, such as reporting, data compilation, etc.,
- you and your team will be able to create personalized dashboards and insights, and even connect the company’s ERP to control tax and financial management automatically,
- Because it is a cloud service, it has all the advantages of this technology, in terms of availability, scalability, performance, among others.
An FP&A solution is complemented by a BI solution, since it covers a large part of what these do not offer, collaborative work in Budget processes and looks towards the future. The same in the comparison against an ERP, which, as we know, focuses on just a couple of processes of the entire financial operation of the company, while the Financial Planning & Analysis covers all the financial processes in an integral way: budget, control, forecast and reporting.
If you want to learn more about the differences between an FP&A solution and other types of software, we recommend that you read our post: The End of Spreadsheets in Finance: FP&A Software - Plika (getplika.com)
FP&A allows you to obtain information in real time, within the same tool, on all aspects of the business. In addition, you can integrate it with other databases and tools, managing to enhance the already efficient software. FP&A is hosted in the cloud, so it is secure, scalable and guarantees the availability of the tool.
All these virtues, in the form of a powerful platform, with fast execution of transactions and a friendly interface, which requires minimal and fast learning curves due to the simplicity of its use (that is, the user must know the concepts of your area, it does not require you to be technical).
We want to end this article on the use of Excel in the financial management of companies and the advantages of FP&A technology with a conclusion. Excel has accompanied us so far and has been a fantastic tool without a doubt. But clinging to the method and the tool that served us in the past is not, we know, the most intelligent decision. We must face change and adapt to survive, we must evolve, and in business financial management, evolution is FP&A.
At Plika we are sure that the question is not if you and your team are going to leave behind the battery of Excel files that you have been using to migrate to an FP&A solution, but when will you do it, before or after the competition.