Spreadsheets versus System Reports - Time for a divorce!
If you look at finance departments, you will come across computer screens occupied with excel spreadsheets outlining financial results, budgets, forecasts, and plans used to make business decisions. Excel has been a trusted tool by organisations of all types and sizes for over two decades. Unsurprisingly, research shows that 81% of businesses use Excel(1), however a worrying figure of 89% utilise it as a budgeting, forecasting and reporting tool.(2)
Relying on Excel to carry out key financial tasks like the above can be hazardous and causes a lot of collaboration, efficiency and reliability issues:
- Spreadsheets aren’t team friendly. Many companies report that they suffer with ‘dual spreadsheets’, whereby different versions are created or amended, which leads to variances in data and therefore inaccuracies.
- Spreadsheets can be time consuming, which can be particularly problematic around critical business times such as Year End. In fact, respondents to a survey said they spent an average of 12 hours each month consolidating, modifying and correcting the spreadsheets (3), which amounts to a day and a half of working time.
- In order to make informed business decisions, it is essential that the people making those decisions have accurate, relevant and timely information which is easily accessible. If the data is going to come from spreadsheets, it will likely need to be double checked at each stage before it is passed across to the decision maker(s). This means that it will take longer to reach them, and errors may occur if the people sending the data across rush the checking process.
One of the key drivers behind companies deciding to stick to their existing processes is that they feel safe using a process that seems to have worked for so long. However, this will have a long-term business impact stopping them from realising efficiency savings and gaining better insight into their organisation’s core data. Not only will automatically generated system reports free up valuable labour time, it will also bring numerous advantages such as:
- Full audit trail: By A system report can rely on a full audit trail where every action is recorded from the moment you log in to logout. Therefore, it is easy to see who has made changes to the report or underlying data and when those changes occurred. With Excel users have to manually put checks in place. Without these, data can be easily manipulated and organisations can potentially open themselves up to fraud
- Reduced human error: With Excel, there is a greater possibility of human error, especially concerning manual data entry or the usage of formulas. Thoroughly checking data can prove to be time consuming and monotonous. System reports ensure everything is accurate.
- Highly visual and insightful reports: System reports can be produced at the push of a button and are often highly visual, providing instant insight. Drill-down functionality then allows to look at the data in more detail or even go back right to the data source.
Matthew Loades – Capita Integrated business solutions
To find out more about how to move away from legacy methods like spreadsheets, manual data entry and report generation with a view to streamlining your operational processes and freeing up staff time, please get in touch.