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Hear from the end user exactly why Excel is a roadblock to effective financial planning processes

Product capabilities often dominate the comparisons between Cloud-powered Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) solutions against legacy spreadsheet tools like Excel. The result of this is often a technical conversation that can forget about something really important: the end user.

The tools that arm financial teams are a vital factor in how engaged, confident, and empowered they feel when it comes to the important work they do. 

Without advanced analysis and planning tools, financial teams can feel like they are being asked to do more than is possible with the tools they currently have, which is challenging when there is an increased need to re-forecast, plan, and budget with increased frequency.

Reddit, and other community forum boards, are a place where finance teams express themselves outside the confines of work and look to affirm their experiences with people in similar positions. 

By looking at what an end-user thinks we can see that it’s not just vendors stating the value of Cloud-powered financial planning, but that financial teams recognize the various capabilities and advantages that enhance the user experience of financial planning and strategizing.

Let’s explore some of the issues expressed by these end users, and what this shows about the tools they are using.

Excel lacks the capabilities to handle complex datasets

One user lays out the use case of FP&A tools in a modern organization that has data requirements that go beyond a personal productivity tool like Excel: “Excel is fine if you're starting out, but anything more than basic planning doesn't scale well.”

The need for modern enterprises to embrace strategic financial planning is higher than ever, due to recent disruptions, and the inevitability of disruption in the future. Those with advanced strategic capabilities can bounce back quicker and with greater agility.

Excel is challenged with “integration, scenario management, workflow/security, and my biggest beef - performance. It's too slow to crunch large models, e.g., clients with multiple entities and loads of locations, B2C cohorts, and hundreds or thousands of contracts.”

This is even more clear when you consider that Excel does have a very literal limit - 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns – which highlights that Excel is not made to handle large datasets, as these users have found out.

Click to read FP&A product brochure gated

Cloud-enabled FP&A software can make strategic tasks simple 

Another user points to the value of having advanced planning capabilities in best-of-breed or integrated Cloud FP&A solutions, rather than trying to extend Excel’s capabilities.

Advanced FP&A software allows financial teams to “simultaneously view their YTD actuals (and override where necessary) and update their rest of year forecasts, at varying levels of granularity depending on how meticulous they are. This data updates dashboards in [near] real-time for execs to review and sign off. It also produces variances to plan for whatever KPIs you can dream up.”

This helps realize strategy in a timelier fashion, allowing an agile response to disruption. While some teams may be able to get by with Excel, when the unexpected strikes, those who have capabilities that prioritize user experience and collaboration will be able to respond faster and ultimately recoup losses.

Cloud FP&A optimizes user experience and productivity

Financial teams are currently deprived of qualified talent and as a result, they need to embrace capabilities and tools that prioritize productivity to reduce data consolidation times.

“For areas where you want the processes streamlined and done systematically, you will want to use FP&A tools. For example: running the budgeting process, collecting budget from various cost centers along with commentary and rolling it up into a P&L is tedious and much simpler with FP&A tools”

Importantly, even qualified accounting talent can still struggle with manual data tasks, especially when they pile up due to talent shortages. Not only will this affect agility and response times, but these teams will quickly fatigue under these workloads, and data errors will become more likely.

“Sorting and modeling all the data - let's say you have 14 departments - want to forecast expenditure across each one? How often do you report on that - monthly? How many scenarios are you running? That's when Excel stops being fit for purpose. It's too much work.”

How can Unit4 help?

Unit4’s integrated and Cloud-based FP&A solution can provide the capabilities you need to digitally transform the planning and analysis capabilities of your finance team - by helping unify your organization’s financial data, allowing teams to collaborate seamlessly, and automating manual data entry tasks to allow your team to operate best. 

Consult our FP&A product page or hear from impartial analyst BARC why they have ranked our FP&A among the top 3 for customer satisfaction, to learn what you have to gain from an advanced FP&A product. 

Or speak to sales to get a demo of our product and hear exactly how Unit4 FP&A can work for you.

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