Strategy Vena

The Pros & Cons of Using Excel for Budgeting & Planning

Sponsored by Vena

Vena Solutions is proud to present a new e-book especially for CFOs, VPs of Finance, Finance Directors, Accountants and Controllers who want to improve their budgeting and planning processes without giving up their existing Excel investments and infrastructure.

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Designed for CFOs, VPs of Finance, Finance Directors, Accountants and Controllers, a new ebook from Vena Solutions is your definitive guide to improving your budgeting and planning processes without giving up your existing Excel investments and infrastructure.  It looks at the benefits and challenges of using Excel for budgeting and planning, and outlines options to deal with the challenges.

Excel still reigns, even with enterprise-level limitations.

Starting with VisiCalc in the late 1970’s, spreadsheets have firmly established themselves as universally valuable business tools, in no area more so than Finance. Even with the proliferation of modern financial, ERP and corporate performance management (CPM) solutions available:

  • Upwards of ninety percent of corporate finance departments still rely on spreadsheets for everything from budget submissions to account reconciliations.
  • Even among firms with sophisticated ERP or CPM systems, 83 percent still revert to Excel for data collection, modeling, reporting and more; the inevitable “Export to Excel” habit engrained in so many financial professionals.

Still, with its popularity, flexibility and familiarity, Excel on its own lacks a number of important features essential to enterprise-level financial planning and analysis. These include a lack of:

  • Version control and data integrity;
  • Business rules and permissions;
  • Scalability to the big data level;
  • Source system integration;
  • Enhanced analytical capabilities;
  • Detailed audit trail capabilities, and more.
  • It’s no wonder that most enterprises eventually find themselves outgrowing Excel…or so it would seem.

Traditional enterprise solutions are no replacement

When you’ve reached the point where you feel you’ve outgrown Excel, it’s easy to conclude you need to make the leap to a more complex, expensive and rigid ERP or CPM solution. With vendors ranging from SAP and Oracle to niche software vendors, there’s certainly no shortage of options available.

As tempting (and/or intimidating) as these offerings may be, it’s important that you understand the limitations of even the most sophisticated enterprise solutions, with implications that very well may outweigh those of Excel. Consider just a few of the costs and consequences:

  • Upfront Costs: The most obvious cost element in traditional finance software, this line item can easily reach six, seven or even eight figures.
  • Training: Unlike Excel, which every accountant has known like the back of their hand since high school, every enterprise finance system on the market will require a large degree of user training – in some instances the involvement of IT to make even simple changes with proprietary scripting languages.
  • Implementation and Support: While the cloud is bringing these costs down for many niche players, the mega-vendors are still on a slow journey to a SaaS model. The alternative – on-premises delivery – translates directly into months or even years of implementation, consultants, IT involvement and more. Need an upgrade? Be prepared to put up an army of consultants in a hotel again.
  • Excel Endurance: As we’ve said earlier, more than eighty percent of companies with a traditional enterprise finance solution still use Excel for things they don’t know how to do otherwise. Exporting data to Excel – one of the most common features of ERP systems – takes data out of a controlled environment, defeating the entire purpose of workflow, version control and audit trail functionality.

Examining the pros and cons of Excel vs. more traditional, complex ERP and corporate performance management (CPM) software, the ebook lays out how you can in fact get the best of both worlds. It wraps up with a 10-point checklist for finding your ideal budgeting and planning solution – with the familiarity and features your team wants, and the enterprise-level control, collaboration and security you need.

Enterprise Budgeting & Planning with Excel for Dummies breaks down the often complicated topic into short, easy to follow chapters:

  1. Understanding Enterprise Budgeting & Planning: Striking the right balance between easy to use tools and reliable, enterprise solutions, and looking at the issues you’ll encounter trying to satisfy these sometimes conflicting goals.
  2. Using Excel for Budgeting & Planning: With organizations of all sizes using Excel for budgeting and planning, understanding why it’s so popular, why standalone Excel isn’t an enterprise-grade finance solution, and when you’re likely outgrowing Excel on its own.
  3. Looking at Traditional Enterprise Solutions: Whether you’re looking to replace or extend your Excel spreadsheets, taking a look at the considerations you’ll want to include in your decision making process.
  4. Getting the Best of Both Worlds: Instead of choosing between Excel and more complex financial software, learn how to get the best of both worlds – the Excel you love and the control you need.

To learn more of Budget Planning download your copy here.