News You Can Use: The Debate About Excel Spreadsheets & Its Use In Reporting

Posted on:  August 2, 2019

Excel Spreadsheets

In this week’s blog post, we bring you a relevant article from Accounting Today which takes a dive into Excel and the question of whether it has adapted and is enough to meet the demands of modern-day finance and accounting. If you’re using Excel, or have considered using it, for your financial reporting needs, read this sooner rather than later.

As we’ve discussed before here in a recent blog post (see The Insider’s Guide To Spreadsheet Limitations), 9 out of 10 spreadsheets are found to be inherent with errors. The effects of this can be devastating. As we all know, good decisions can’t be made with bad data. But according to the FSN survey in Accounting Today, spreadsheets aren’t just error-prone. 97% of respondents said they lose sleep over missing deadlines due to mistakes and lack of adequate controls. That’s a lot of people losing a lot of sleep over a lot of (unnecessary) anxiety directly related to spreadsheet use. Thankfully, we don’t still live in the 1980’s (for more than just fashion reasons). Today we have better ways to manage and report off our data. Yet according to the Accounting Today survey, 71% of organizations still depend on spreadsheets for collection of data – and thereby heavily dependent on IT to help create the financial reports they need. Perhaps most telling of all, the survey reported that only 29 percent of senior finance executives think they can change their system without causing major delays in their reports. It’s no surprise that 69 percent of survey respondents resort to getting by with what FSN calls a “spiral of spreadsheets,” says Accounting Today. So, while there are much better reporting solutions out there, more executives than not are afraid that implementing such a solution would cause more headaches than it’s worth. They don’t want to make any changes because of the perceived disruption it will cause. Yet, like Alice In Wonderland, they’re running faster and faster only to stay in the same place. Perception isn’t always reality. Case in point: if you implement the right financial reporting tool, you’ll save thousands of hours, tens of thousands of dollars (in wasted time alone), and your sanity (which is priceless).

Here are some ways to ensure you find a perfect reporting tool and minimize disruption to your organization:

  1. Make sure you’re working with an experienced vendor. That vendor needs to fully understand your business needs and expectations. There won’t be a success if they’re trying to push a square peg into a round hole.
  2. Understand clearly the timeline of implementation and how long it’ll take to get working, completed, reports. Not just how long it will take to complete training or installation.
  3. Ensure your team understands the importance of putting the time in upfront to implement the new tool. The project will need their full commitment or the implementation will drag on longer than necessary. Especially during the initial stages, avoid multi-tasking. The American Psychological Association says that “even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.” Most employees are already stretched, so having to learn a new tool isn’t an easy sell. However, they need to understand how it will make their jobs easier and give them more time to tackle other responsibilities.
  4. No matter what financial reporting tool you choose, know which account numbers make up the values on your Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement. Understanding the labyrinth of spreadsheet formulas you likely have isn’t necessary, but it will save enormous time if you come prepared with an in-depth knowledge of what makes up your balances.
  5. Finally, designate a person responsible for making the transition successful, and don’t forget to paint a picture of what “done” looks like. This is a critical step many teams forget, which causes endless confusion and scope creep, ultimately deflating people and derailing the project.
As you deliberate on vendors, consider looking at Synoptix, which specializes in delivering your completed financial reports in the least amount of time. Rather than waiting months to have reports in hand, we’ll deliver you working, completed, reports in a matter of days. We can help you stop wasting time trying to find data, and spend your time managing it. Drop us an email if you’d like to have extra hours in your day….whether it’s to sit poolside or tackle other responsibilities.

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