more-arw search

Quit Using Spreadsheets and Manual Processes in Financial Planning & Analysis

A lack of formal, specialized technologies makes it difficult for companies to keep track of their finances and use that data to make more-informed decisions about the future. In addition, it allows inaccuracies, inconsistencies and confusion to overtake the organizations. Finance chiefs may be forced to compile forecasts and analysis from unstructured, unverified data, which in turn can negatively impact the conclusions they make and the recommendations they give to their companies.

Manual processes don't allow businesses to account for their operational and financial complexities. Wendy Baum, the executive vice president of finance for market research firm NPD Group, told TechTarget her company was using Excel to do its budgeting. This was a difficult task, considering the business has 180 departments that each needed its own template. NPD Group has since switched to a cloud-based, Software as a Service budgeting and forecasting solution, which has freed it from what Baum called "spreadsheet hell."

Technologies that may have been adequate two decades ago - such as manual spreadsheets, documents and emailed files -  no longer cut it in a fast-paced world where terms like "big data" and "business intelligence" are on the lips of practically every CEO. It may be time for corporations that still rely on manual processes to invest in new tools and solutions that can automate their financial planning and analysis.

Eliminating Human Error
In a Proformative webinar held earlier this year, it was revealed that many finance departments are struggling with a few common issues. For instance, use of manual spreadsheets - such as those in an Excel-based planning system - can result in having no version control, errors and broken links. Indeed, 80 percent of plans done in Excel contain an error that organizations are completely unaware of, the webinar noted.

There is increasing pressure for CFOs to chime in on board discussions and present complex financial information in ways that can be easily digested by decision makers who may not be familiar with the terminology. They are asked to assess the available data and offer their own opinions on the best strategic direction for their companies to take. Spreadsheets do not necessarily lend themselves to dynamic assessments about financial implications and methods for boosting performance in the long run.

Investments in solutions and applications that are tailored to the business may seem steep today, but they can offer high returns in the long run, in terms of both greater profitability, process improvements and greater credibility and information

"If you don't trust the numbers, you're not going to own the numbers," Rob Frascone, solution consultant of Host Analytics, said during the webinar. "And if you don't own the numbers, you're not going to own the results of … what you're doing in your business."

Gaining Visibility into Processes
Of course, one of the greatest benefits of having more efficient processes is being able to easily get a 360-degree view of your finance department, particularly regarding the record-to-report (R2R) process. Experts from accounting powerhouses such as KPMG and Ernst & Young, as well as firms like CapGemini, convened in London to discuss the issue. They noted that spreadsheets and so-called "point solutions' are not capable of providing a holistic approach to the R2R process.

"The lack of transparency and visibility in the R2R process significantly hinders a finance executive's ability to respond proactively to an ever-changing economic and regulatory environment," said Ken Fritz, executive vice president for Trintech, a financial governance solution provider and host of the event.

To learn more about how to drive efficiency, process improvements and profit hikes with the use of technology, join us at the ProformaTECH conference in San Francisco. Register now to discover how to merge the worlds of finance and technology.