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5 Reasons to Stay in Excel for Financial Close Management

October 23, 2015 Mitchell Buchanan  
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Consider this post a belated but heartfelt ‘Happy Spreadsheet Day’ to all those working in finance departments who have come to appreciate the power of Microsoft Excel.

For those who aren’t familiar with this non-statutory “holiday,” Spreadsheet Day fell on Oct. 17 this year, and is the fifth annual celebration of the day the first predecessors to Excel emerged in 1979.

One of the suggested ways to mark this occasion is to reflect on how ubiquitous spreadsheets are in modern life. That’s a good idea because, even as other vendors try to steer CFOs and their teams towards more complex tools that require difficult integration with enterprise systems, it’s worth thinking about the long-term approach you want to take to handle things like financial close management as efficiently as possible.

With that in mind, here are but a handful of reasons Excel won’t – and need not – be going anywhere. Not now, and maybe not ever:

1. Excel is tried, tested, true…and adored

Just a few weeks ago PC World magazine did a comparative analysis between Excel and Google Sheets, which is just one of the many alternatives available on the market. Its conclusion? “For many spreadsheet jocks, there is no substitute,” citing Excel’s ability to process data, the potential for customization and data visualization features, among other things. PC World suggested it would be next to impossible to make finance departments give up on the investments in Microsoft’s product that they’ve already made: “For those who live, breathe, and even do word processing in Microsoft Excel, you will have to pry it from their cold, dead hands,” it said.

2. Finance leaders need to focus on business insights, not technology decisions

Financial close is critical to business operations, but technology decisions can get in the way of doing the best possible job. A survey by Robert Half Technology of more than 2,200 CFOs, for example, said keeping up with changing IT is their No. 1 pressure. Excel can do what finance teams need today, and when combined with a centralized database, workflow, business rules, audit trail and cloud delivery, it can do even more.

3. You can trust what Excel delivers 

Recently Microsoft marked 30 years since Excel 1.0 made its debut. Financial consulting firm Operis recognized this achievement with an eBook that explores how Excel has built up credibility among large companies since 1985. “A lot of money was going to be riding on Excel’s accuracy in the years ahead. Just how much money they could never have imagined,” it says. “The availability of Excel has coincided in the last 25 years with the number of listed shares going up by 62% and their value rising eleven fold from almost $6 trillion to over $66 trillion.”

4. The value of Excel scales alongside the business and its data

Lots of entrepreneurs started their businesses with little more than a desktop, Microsoft Excel and big ambitions. Though companies change a lot over time, what hasn’t changed is Excel’s place in everyday operations. That’s because, as Programmable Web recently noted, Excel can be used not only in financial close management but in making all kinds of other applications that can be used by large numbers of users and managing untold volumes of data. “Let’s face it, Excel is everywhere, and we depend on it more than we realize or like to acknowledge,” the site said.

5. Excel rewards those who develop their skill sets

There’s a reason why Time magazine recently published ‘Excel Secrets That Will Make Your Boss Think You’re A Pro.’ Unlike programs that become more difficult to use as they get older, Excel tends to become something where shortcuts and other features make it easier to tie into products that automate more manual or error-prone work in finance departments. “For the experienced and uninitiated alike, Excel is a deep program with a variety of capabilities,” Time said.

And even that’s an understatement. In fact, next year it might be time to ditch Spreadsheet Day and just start wishing your colleagues Happy Excel Day instead.

(Check out The Ultimate Guide to Financial Close to help you verify your company’s true financial position.)

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