The simple spreadsheet has become such a ubiquitous tool in the finance world that you probably don’t even notice it anymore. All those cells, sheets, and formulas have become familiar friends. As finance junkies ourselves, we get it.
However, the fact is that Excel is a twentieth-century tool that doesn’t meet the needs of a twenty-first-century finance function.
Get ready to be overwhelmed
We all love spreadsheets, but they were never meant to handle the sheer volume of data most businesses today create. A report by Dell EMC predicts the digital universe will double in size every two years; apply that to your business and you can see how quickly things will get out of control. That is, if they aren’t already: With many companies getting their numbers from dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of sources across different lines of business, retail locations, and multinational partners, the struggle to collect data is already very real.
Once you get all your data, consolidation is an exercise in managing never-ending chaos. With various partners sending you different spreadsheets, your challenge is figuring out how to convert oranges into apples to ensure you’re comparing the same information. The more you adjust for discrepancies, the more likely errors will creep in or formulas will mysteriously break. Updating something at the last minute can feel almost like starting over from scratch. In a spreadsheet-driven department with no automation, late nights and weekends are the norm.
Time is your most valuable resource
Another thing to consider is what spreadsheets cost you in terms of strategic opportunity. According to the Adaptive Insights CFO Indicator Report Q4 2016, the CFOs surveyed said just 17% of the finance team’s time is dedicated to strategic activities. And yet, in the CFO Indicator Report Q2 2016, CFOs report that they expect their teams to spend 25%-50% of their time on strategy by 2020.
How are they going to close that gap? That’s the question on most CFOs’ minds. In the CFO Indicator Report Q2 2015, 63% of CFOs said the number one obstacle to upping their strategic game is that they don’t have enough time for data analysis, despite 70% agreeing that finance is positioned to guide strategic decisions across the company.
For many CFOs, the answer lies beyond spreadsheets and their time-intensive, static processes. The capacity to identify strategic opportunities will require a combination of new processes, new skills, breaking down silos, and using automated financial software to improve efficiency and effectiveness.