Faced with tighter budgets and downsizing, public and private sectors must do more and better with less, even as they launch major IT development projects.
As a result, Finance teams are increasingly being asked to manage several strategic and / or IT initiatives that require coordination with various stakeholders throughout the organization ... as well as their usual financial and operational obligations.
Because Finance Departments generally want to set an example of fiscal discipline and cost control, organizations tend to extend the life of existing IT systems but they do so by asking Finance managers to work overtime at year-end or when meeting project deadlines.
The end result?
People manage huge, often complex processes and communicate information throughout the entire organization, using a limited budget and completely inappropriate tools , not to mention the data security issues involved in sharing information this way. Often the only software available to the Finance team is the good old Excel spreadsheet.
The cost of inefficiency is real, and that cost is paid by the entire organization, not just by Finance but by the entire organization, as well as upper management, who find wait times to get quality information too long – and sometimes the quality itself is also lacking!
However, in some situations and depending on the organization's size, Excel may be the best possible option. However, users should take certain precautions in order to reduce the software’s inherent risks.
Let's take one of Excel's known shortcomings - data validation. Because it's so easy to inadvertently change the data in a given cell, it’s a good idea to use the file’s version history to review the changes and make sure they were done deliberately. In collaboration mode, the Version History feature enables users to see the previous user’s revisions, preventing the next user from reworking the same data.
However, the benefit of Excel is that most people feel comfortable with it and know how to use it. So, if you send the budget template to your managers using Excel, the Protected View feature prevents data from being entered incorrectly. It also enables you to prevent file users from accessing certain features, so they can’t delete lines, modify cell formats or change scenarios.
At year-end, having several people at once using Excel can be frustrating, especially when the file is saved automatically but the changes aren’t synchronized. To avoid this problem, you can save different versions of the file and include the date in the file name. Although this means consolidating the different versions afterwards, it will help keep up morale while you work.
So, when using spreadsheets for important processes, it's essential that organizations think carefully about the limitations of these kinds of tools, and develop ways of reducing their impact.
It is common knowledge these days that organizations take huge risks when they use Excel to manage projects, both simple and complex, whether they want to collect data for a decentralized budget, deploy strategic financial information such as budget consumption details, or track changes in critical ratios. Using Excel exposes the organization to serious risks. What’s more, the software is inefficient, and hugely unpopular with accountants.
In 2021, no organization should be relying on a spreadsheet for its performance optimization and dealing with today’s challenges. Using Excel as an information management system runs counter to the innovation and agility that today's organizations must demonstrate. As senior management, finance teams and managers become increasingly aware of this fact, they are demanding tools that are flexible and can radically simplify processes.
As a result, Finance teams are increasingly turning towards integrated solutions that can help them control program and service costs. These tools simplify budget processes by reducing non-value-added activities and by making it easier to pass on management information to the organization's managers.
Is your organization guilty of overusing Excel? If so, have you looked at the various ways you can safeguard your data, and use the software more effectively? Share your thoughts; we’d love to hear from you!