Spreadsheets. Love them or hate them, we all use them. However, as useful as spreadsheets can be, they are often pushed beyond their limits in a business setting when teams or departments need to collaborate to develop complex plans, budgets, and forecasts. Yet despite their failings and frustrations, many companies continue to use spreadsheets for planning and analysis. In fact, 9 out of 10 businesses still use spreadsheets to plan, budget, analyze, and report.
Why? There are many likely reasons, ranging from simple familiarity to the belief that spreadsheets are a low-cost option when compared to other solutions. Or maybe it’s because businesses believe no other viable alternative technologies are available that are as flexible as a spreadsheet.
- Gain control over corporate data while increasing collaboration
To address this issue, the ideal integrated business planning platform should offer flexible security levels so that anyone, from the executive level to the front line, can safely participate in the planning process—ultimately improving collaboration across the business. Changes should be easily tracked for audit purposes, and the solution should have built-in version control with the ability to restore old versions to avoid the potential loss of data.
Business data is confidential. But a lot of times, this confidential data—which can include salaries, corporate budgets, and sales commissions—is stored and updated in disconnected spreadsheets and then shared in emails, presenting a potentially large security issue. Yes, spreadsheets can be password protected; however, they were never intended to be shared among multiple users where different access rights and authorizations are required. In short, spreadsheets were never meant to be a collaborative tool.
- Eliminate errors
Did you know that more than 90 percent of spreadsheets contain serious errors? And on top of that, more than 90 percent of spreadsheet users are convinced that their models are error-free.2 Yes, fixing syntax errors and repairing broken macros will eventually make everything work again. But because spreadsheets are so difficult to audit, there’s no way of knowing if all errors were caught and fixed if you can find the errors to begin with—effectively preventing business leaders from making decisions with confidence. And while some errors are inconsequential, some are big enough that it’s not unusual for companies to issue earnings warnings due to errors in forecasts that were pulled together using spreadsheets.
- Leverage existing skills
One of the main attractions of spreadsheets is that users can build and modify models without having to learn a specialist programming language like they do when working with a lot of enterprise applications or legacy systems. Even so, in a recent paper, Forrester Research explained that high-growth companies are “likely to spend more proportionately on business technology than mature companies … they are also more likely to adopt technology —which is good news since such technology will empower the business user rather than making them dependent on IT.
A smart integrated business planning platform should offer self-service capability, enabling users to use natural language and drag-and-drop functionalities for conducting business rules so that it is familiar to any regular spreadsheet user and therefore is easily adopted.
- Improve productivity
Spreadsheets seem like a great low-cost option for planning and analysis because the software is so readily available. But throw in the time-consuming process of building and amending spreadsheet models, and it’s likely the cost is much higher than originally assumed.
Case in point: In a survey conducted during a CFO.com and Data Labs India webcast, 42 percent of respondents said they spend more than 20 hours per week using spreadsheets for their planning, budgeting, and/or reporting. That’s a lot of time lost just maintaining and updating data—and prevents your business from being proactive. Choosing the right integrated business planning platform can increase the business’ return on time invested (ROTI) by allowing employees to spend more hours doing analysis instead of updating and maintaining data.
- Expedite business processes
Is your business nimble? Or is it held back because team members have to manage processes, such as reviewing and approving forecasts, by attaching spreadsheets to emails—a labor-intensive task, especially in a large or fast-growing enterprise? Without a plan in place to migrate off spreadsheets, companies risk limiting their potential for growth and expansion because they limit their ability to course correct when changes arise.
Yet in a survey conducted during the CFO.com and Data Labs India webcast, 35 percent of respondents said their company has no planned timeframe to evaluate alternative solutions other than spreadsheets—alternatives that could allow them to create an integrated workflow for users to configure and monitor the status of routine processes, as well as expedite submissions and approvals to create a more agile enterprise.
- Simplify your data management
Many companies still treat the spreadsheet as a database, but the size limitations and flatness of spreadsheets prevent businesses from being as agile as they could be simply because spreadsheets cannot handle the complex dimensionality of business data. Spreadsheets cannot support reporting functions such as reporting by alternative hierarchies or by different time periods. Any update or change in data has to be manually entered into disparate systems, dumped into various spreadsheets, and reviewed before it can be used.
This is a time-consuming and laborious process. In order to properly plan for the company’s future, users must have access to both past data and future possibilities by running scenario-based strategic planning and collaborating effectively across the business—both of which are impossible to do in spreadsheets. For a modern business to stay competitive, it must be able to predict the impact or risk a change will have on revenue and the workforce. With foresights gained through scenario-based planning, leading companies are able to strategically make changes that will beneficially impact business performance.
- Become more proactive and agile
What does it mean to become more proactive and agile? It means the ability to clearly see an issue or opportunity and take action or course correct to find the best solution. Your business needs to be able to rapidly sense and understand internal and external changes, and respond appropriately
To become more proactive and agile, companies should look for a solution that improves user productivity through faster business processes and streamlined data management. Employees should be able to copy and amend an existing model to create a new scenario, rapidly run through numerous iterations that potentially touch billions of data points to assess the most likely outcome, and then immediately share that information with their peers— enabling business leaders to make advanced decisions based on sound data and predictive analytics.
“In our old territory management process, we took a month to assemble the data. Then we took another half a month to put it into spreadsheets, cut it all up, and email our entire customer list globally— talk about a security concern. Now with Data Labs India, we got rid of all the front-end data gymnastics and and the simple user interface makes gathering sales input much easier, arming the sales team with more insight. All of this has gone from weeks to seconds”. The above listed are the seven reasons to replace your Planning Spreadsheets
Data Labs India is a digital transformation company helps organizations to achieve supply chain excellence through robust supply chain business processes and cutting edge technologies; empowered by AI and IoT. Our highly innovative solutions and products for end-to-end supply chain planning and operations make our clients truly competitive.