For many finance pros, Microsoft Excel is the go-to tool for performing analysis, generating reports, and simply running the business. Its columns and rows are as familiar as the back of your hands. Equally well-known are Excel’s limitations—it’s error-prone, time-consuming, and getting the actionable insight needed to run a successful company is difficult at best. Today’s CFOs view new and emerging technologies as business assets and know that Excel—while comfortable—can no longer take center stage as the accounting tool of choice.
In its research perspective, “Eliminating the Risks of Spreadsheets in Finance,” Ventana Research highlights the limitations of spreadsheets in three key finance processes:
- Addressing the new revenue recognition rules. Known as ASC 606, these new standards substantially affect how companies account for revenue from contracts with customers. If your contracts have any degree of complexity—such as have tiered pricing or volume discounts or regularly include modifications—you may be required to change your procedures and systems. Coping with these alterations in spreadsheets means increased workload for your finance team, a greater chance for errors and misstatements, and a lack of auditability.
- Closing. Ventana’s benchmark research shows that 75% of midsize companies make extensive use of spreadsheets during the closing process. Using Excel to handle allocations and analyses associated with the close takes up valuable time. In addition, 53% of these companies rely on spreadsheets for the consolidation process, making their monthly and quarterly closes slower than those that use an ERP or dedicated consolidation system.
- Streamlining time and expense. Companies with professional services organizations need to quickly and accurately collect, approve, and account for time and expense data. Collecting this data can be frustrating for employees who supply it and for those in accounting who have to rekey it into the financial system. What’s more, the two-dimensional nature of spreadsheets makes it difficult to effectively track time and expenses. For example, professionals are attached to multiple projects, and need to easily allocate time and document expenses for each. To keep clients happy and better ensure prompt payment, organizations need to provide detailed, timely, and accurate invoices—difficult to do when the data is buried in a spreadsheet.
Fewer things are more frustrated in the business world than not getting the data or analysis you need— when you want it. Equally aggravating is not knowing if the data is accurate, or who you should turn to for answers when something questionable pops up. A writer in Forbes put it best: “ Your customers, management and regulators may be affected by any error, and there may be costs to you in lost revenue, damaged reputation, fines or litigation expenses. Isn’t is worth some money and effort to avoid those risks and expenses?”
The answer to that question, of course, is yes. Modern ERP and accounting tools offer the time-saving automation and error-free consistency that Excel spreadsheets so conspicuously lack. Your talented accounting team can focus more on analysis and less on calculations, and you’ll gain visibility and insights to grow your company with confidence.