If you are struggling with Excel fatigue and asking if it's time to move on then this article will help you diagnose if it is the right time to look for an alternative planning, forecasting and budgeting solution?
What's driving you?
Whether we are expanding in our home or business life, growth impacts everything and most of all it needs planning. Make do and mend is the mantra of finance departments, but could this be holding you back?
The need for more space and time to manage the complexities of more people, activities and investment needs good planning. We all plan, in order to make life a bit easier to handle and to help make the most of our futures. Whether you’re a media start-up a fintech on the rise, a global charity or an enterprise communications giant the need to plan remains. The common ground is that you are having to juggle the pressures of cash, people, probably different geographies and the demands of many interests, be they investors, owners, the board or banks.
How do you plan for that?
When change happens let’s face it, it usually catches us blindside. We don’t have control over market fluctuations or global currency shift. Changing consumer habits can be predicted in part but shift in attitudes can hit fast, brought on by unexpected events. Take the Blue Planet effect on plastic or Cambridge Analytica on Facebook data privacy, both have impacted consumer behaviour and attitudes which could never have been predicted. But if events impact your business, you need to assess the pros and cons, and that means being able to feed in numbers, information and basic assumptions to assess outcomes fast and accurately.
Now, as anyone knows who heads up finance in a growing organisation, staying ahead and keeping on top of plans is demanding. Something is always shifting and there is rarely a week which is constant.
Growth is turbulent. In order not to sink, a great finance director needs to be able to steer the course, manage the cashflow and identify the highs and lows. With this information everyone else in the business can make better decisions earlier and faster. So, it’s no surprise that those companies on the rise who can forecast fastest and have a grip on their information, are able to turn fast and avoid the dips to stay ahead of the game.
What stresses planning?
Businesses come in many shapes and sizes and so does growth., and change; Data management, faster analysis, difficult communication and clunky processes are the usual factors that cause Excel to run out of steam, and drives the need to look for a more robust forecasting tool. Here are a few questions to ask of whether your existing Excel provision can cope?
a handle on data
- Have you the ability to compare like with like across different data sources using common metrics.
- Do you have a Single source of truth rather than data silos stored in fragmented systems?
- Can you access real-time data Using actuals, rather than predictive data for more accurate relevant numbers?
- Can you build models with multiple dimensions to plan across regions, products, customer, time and more?
- Can you Keep track of who has access or made alterations to which version and know which version is the most up-to-date?
- Can you create rolling forecasts to manage changing revenue structures and costs throughout the year?
- Can you build many Scenario's and do 'what if' analysis fast to test impact on funding, markets or operational structures?
- Have you got effective Reporting to communicate with the company, board and stakeholders in easy to read formats and dashboards?
- Is it easy to share and collaborate with others in the business for updating budgeting information and reports to plan effectively across geographies, time zones and entities?
- Workflow – can you manage changes to sheets and track planning amendments across the company?
- Security – can you manage who and what people can see?
- Management – do you need to reduce wasted time, effort and overhead within finance in budget forecasts?
time to change?
If two or three of the above points are limiting your ability to manage, then it's probably time to look at alternative's to Excel. Many Finance directors put off moving on from Excel too late. This can put undue pressure on getting a replacement in fast and at the same time overstretching themselves and their finance team. Tell tale signs that Excel is creaking are when it takes weeks to turn around a new scenario, or quarter of an hour for a spreadsheet to open. The drive often comes from others needing better information for decision making faster. So when the board are screaming you need something else!