Excel is extremely useful for many things; storing, managing, and visualising your business’s data are not three of them. Even the programme’s most ardent supporters admit that Excel spreadsheet limitations can create serious problems for financial teams.
It’s true that, despite its flaws, inconsistencies, and limitations, Excel is a low-cost, easy-to-use system with which most financial people are incredibly comfortable. It’s also true, however, that no matter how popular a system Excel may be, it has its limits.
Think of it like that enthusiastic employee whose continued efficiency eventually saw them promoted beyond their natural ability. No matter how hard they tried to keep up with the increased demands of their new role, they never quite seemed to get there.
Excel is a powerful tool with extensive functionality, but it’s not a database – nor was it ever designed to be. Trying to shoehorn all your complex data into a humble spreadsheet is never going to be the best use of your time or Excel’s capabilities.
And as a longer-term strategy, it can only ever work up to a point.
Because if you can’t find the data you need when you need it – and can’t make sense of it even if you do – you can’t make the best decisions for your business.
And the more data you have, the more difficult it becomes to manage without the appropriate software.
How Excel spreadsheet limitations impact your business
Put simply, Excel was not designed for enterprise planning. The more data you expect it to handle, the less user-friendly it becomes. Scrolling through hundreds of rows and columns is both time-consuming and difficult, and the data contained in them becomes hard to digest.
And yet, it remains incredibly popular – for obvious reasons. As a universal tool with almost a billion users, its appeal to organisations is obvious. Almost everyone already knows how to use it – which means little, if any, training is required – and it’s inexpensive and convenient.
It is also, however, hobbling your business.
Excel, well, excels when dealing with small data sets. But as soon as your business starts to scale it quickly becomes slow, limiting, and just plain risky.
Some of the more common headaches businesses experience include:
Multiple versions of the truth
Version control issues can occur when more than one person has access to, and collaborates on, a particular spreadsheet. Although everyone starts out working from the same version, it doesn’t usually stay that way for long. Every change to the master spreadsheet needs to be uploaded to a central repository so the rest of the team can see it. It just takes one or two people forgetting to do this and suddenly you have many different versions of the same spreadsheet.
People say spreadsheets are prone to errors. It’s more accurate to say that when data is manually aggregated, it’s more common to find errors. The problem is, unless you’re prepared to spend hours meticulously combing your spreadsheets line by line, these errors are difficult to detect.
Complex data makes for arduous reporting
Trying to extract actionable insights from pages-long Excel spreadsheets is not a task for the faint of heart. You first have to start by compiling all the different versions into one usable reference, and then try to make sense of the hundreds, if not thousands of different rows. The more complex your data, the more difficult it is to report on.
No native integration
Unless an integration for your other business systems exists on Zapier, Qlik Application Automation or another appropriate workflow tool, you’ll have to transfer over your data manually. Not only is this hugely time-consuming, but it also creates a very real risk of people either receiving redundant information or none at all.
Solving the problem of Excel spreadsheet limitations
The solution is not to abandon Excel entirely, but rather to significantly improve its processes. A planning and performance management platform such as Jedox offers the best of both worlds – allowing your financial planners to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the native Excel interface while still working within it. This shortens their learning curve and usually guarantees a higher user adoption across business functions.
By transforming the humble spreadsheet into an enterprise-wide platform and connecting your Excel files to the in-memory database, Jedox makes financial planning and budgeting easy. You can use the integration tools to connect all your disparate enterprise data sources and standardise collaboration with intelligent data governance, workflows and approvals. There is also an intuitive user interface to facilitate self-service planning, analysis and reporting automation.
At Tahola, we completely understand why so many businesses are reluctant to move on from Excel. But there are real and robust benefits of working with a truly self-serving EPM tool such as Jedox. You gain actionable insights directly from the source in real time – all in a spreadsheet interface that won’t crash when faced with large datasets.
Not to mention no more having to combine multiple CSVs or waiting days for a data analyst to answer your questions. With a system like Jedox, everyone’s a data scientist. It’s so easy to investigate information and find answers, everyone can gain the actionable insights they need to make better decisions.
It’s time to transform your financial management from spreadsheets to an enterprise-class software solution. Let’s help you discover how you can use Jedox to help you change the way you Excel.