31 years ago September just gone, the world was first introduced to Excel. It was truly an innovation and there’s no doubt that the spreadsheet changed how everybody works – not just the finance department!
Today, Excel remains ubiquitous among finance and accounting pros. In fact, 43 percent of them report that Excel still plays a significant role in their jobs, according to a recent survey conducted by Radius Global Market Research.
I think we can all agree that spreadsheets are far from perfect, and with the development of technology over the last few decades, there are now more efficient ways to budget, plan, model and forecast for your business.
And yet so many still continue to use standalone spreadsheets….why?
Admittedly spreadsheets are inexpensive, are fairly easy to use, quite intuitive and require next to no learning getting to grips with. But can they adequately handle the complexities of corporate financial processes? Can they alone support the finance team’s need to sufficiently draw insight from non-financial big data that comes from other business functions such as sales, marketing, and the supply chain?
Spreadsheets, by their very nature, were never meant to handle this level of sophisticated use. The industry has evolved; the way we conduct business has changed and therefore so should our software. Not just a new version but a better unified solution.
Although an inexpensive option, does a lack of version updates, audit trails, and security as well as tedious data entry, and human error inherent in spreadsheets, mean they’re worth it? The scales are increasingly tipping toward the need for more control, scalability and functionality that goes beyond the traditional spreadsheet.
However, according to the Radius Global Market Research survey, 57 percent of finance professionals are still using spreadsheets as a standalone tool so they can meet EPM requirements for planning and budgeting, financial reporting and disclosure, and analytics. This begs the question of whether our collective reliance on spreadsheets alone is out of habit, necessity or fear of change.
EPM and the cloud
If we fast forward to the cloud era of today, and with it, we introduce the rise of Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) solutions. They are designed to provide more control and accuracy in supporting strategic financial processes such as budgeting, planning, forecasting, financial consolidation, reporting, and analysis; cloud-based EPM solutions can bridge the gap that spreadsheets leave behind.
Utilising a spreadsheet format with EPM solutions, such as Oracle, can reduce planning time dramatically, How? EPM is centralized, there are no individual spreadsheets to create and maintain—all of your planning data is entered, secured, edited and stored in the same place.
Oracle EPM products are probably the only vendor products in the market that has full Microsoft two way live integration and connectivity. The products can be used in a web browser and Excel, word and PowerPoint. Users can still use excel and then utilise the EPM products features. Taking what you already know, and enhancing it, supercharging it.
By eliminating the need to share individual planning spreadsheets via email, an EPM tool creates an essential barrier between your company’s most valuable numbers and the outside world. It also gives you total control over which employees can view, enter or edit that data.
Remove Human error
With EPM you can improve the accuracy of your planning data while dramatically simplifying the troubleshooting process. EPM gives you complete control over your planning models, significantly reducing the potential for human error. With EPM, only designated users can add/edit data or change formulas; and a detailed audit trail gives you complete visibility into changes, approval flow, and more.
A cloud-based EPM solution makes it possible to experience the benefits of EPM typically for about one quarter of the cost of conventional on premise software.
Because cloud-based tools utilise a subscription model rather than license fees, you won’t need to make a huge up-front investment. And because there is no hardware or software for your IT team to install or maintain, cloud-based EPM offers a lower cost-of-ownership overall, providing a system that finance can maintain without leaning on scarce IT resources or expensive consultants.
As the product evolves, you’ll enjoy new functionality through seamless automated upgrades; and you’ll never have to worry about swapping out systems as your company grows.
The availability of ‘enterprise’ EPM solutions in the cloud is providing many organisations with the opportunity to improve their EPM processes and to do things that were difficult if not impossible before. As they experience these benefits their understanding of what the cloud can offer changes dramatically, as do any concerns regarding an upgrade.
A survey by Oracle showed planning represents the ideal starting point to the adoption of the cloud for EPM processes. It’s no wonder it is the leading cloud-based EPM application – and it’s not surprising either to find Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service, in particular, is being deployed so successfully.