Finance leaders question the hurry to do away with popular, familiar Excel spreadsheets.
LinkedIn has come a long way since its days as an electronic resume and personal networking tool. As highlighted by a recent discussion on the service about Excel, LinkedIn is playing an increasingly pivotal role in shaping perceptions among corporate decision makers on everything from leadership styles to financial software.
In this example, it all started with an innocuous question posed by a financial business controller based in France, on LinkedIn’s CFO Network Group (which boasts nearly 300,000 members).
“Can you do without Excel?” he wondered. “Let’s talk about the tools to get this process more efficient and useful for both finance and the business.”
Suffice it to say, his peers were more than ready to talk. And the answer, in short, was a decisive “No”.
In fact, the comments making up the thread on LinkedIn could, if ordered properly, be a useful way to help not only CFOs but organizations as a whole understand why Excel has ruled for 30 years, and how it can be even better to further business outcomes.
Let’s start with:
The Reality Check
It’s hard to disagree with the CEO of a finance process transformation company, who summed up the current state of affairs in finance departments pretty much everywhere:
“What is the hurry to go away from Excel? If something better comes (along), we will automatically move ahead and Excel will be ancient. The fact that we are still debating shows there is not much to match the simplicity and ease of Excel.”
Of course, that doesn’t completely articulate the reasons for Excel’s longevity to anyone outside of Finance. That’s why we need:
The Tech Explainer
A global consultant pointed out that Excel is more than just user-friendly, but something that naturally integrates with third-party products as the technology powering month-end financial close and other processes continue to evolve:
“No Finance or Accounting guy can sleep well without Excel. Also, since most other tools have a compatibility with Excel to download or upload, Excel will continue to rule. A combination of a sharp financial brain with Excel is adequate in most situations.”
That doesn’t mean, of course, that everyone should be continuing to use Excel the way they always have. This brings us to:
The Action Item
Kudos to an Iceland-based General Manager for summing up where Excel in the finance department is ultimately headed:
“While Excel is indispensable for any finance professional, when it comes to planning and budgeting the main drawback is that it is not a database. This means that when you want to really distribute your work, using Excel creates a lot of overhead and errors keep creeping in all the time.”
He’s right. Excel is not a database, but connecting it with one — along with a workflow engine and cloud computing power — turns one of the world’s most popular software applications into an enterprise-grade finance and business solution.
[Shameless Promotion Alert] This is exactly what Vena does with Excel; combining it with a centralized database, workflow and other enterprise functionality to streamline and automate manual tasks in any spreadsheet-driven process – both within finance and across virtually every department in an organization.
In any case and regardless of vendor, this is clearly a topic that warrants continued discussion and action, not just on LinkedIn, but in mid-large sized organizations everywhere.