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Excel The #1 Reporting Tool For Executives Despite Newer Alternatives

July 22, 2015 Mitchell Buchanan  
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More than 70% of global executives use spreadsheets to track and manage financial reporting data on a daily basis, according to a survey by Accenture and their partners.

The survey also revealed that while finance executives often use a dedicated application to consolidate data, they still rely on spreadsheets to extract specific information or collect data across disparate systems.The enduring popularity of spreadsheets is a testament to the fact that many executives prefer to remain in the familiar environment rather than invest vast amounts time and money into procuring and being trained on a new system.

However, using spreadsheets in combination with disparate applications represents an inefficient approach to financial reporting that does not give executives access to accurate, up-to-date data or the ability to make meaningful decisions.

Why today’s approach to financial reporting is not ideal

On their own, spreadsheets are static and do not contain security features that prevent contributors from making unauthorized changes to cells or formulas. As a result, spreadsheets alone do not give executives a clear, comprehensive or accurate view of all numbers generated by their financial reporting processes.

In fact, almost half of C- and VP- level respondents to the survey said that the lack of visibility into financial reporting data affected their ability to explain why their quarter ended the way it did.

According to Scott Brennan, Executive Director of Accenture’s Finance and Enterprise Performance Consulting Group, these respondents “don’t have all the dimensional analytics they need to be able to go on the earnings call and say, yes, margins were up here, and here are the product lines or customer segments or geographies that drove that.”

Since executives are not likely to move away from spreadsheets any time soon, companies need to find a way to bring current financial, management and performance data together without leaving spreadsheets behind.

The most effective solution would be one that connects companies’ spreadsheets to their core financial system, so that up-to-date data is automatically fed into spreadsheets for further use.

This kind of solution eliminates the manual transfer of data and its associated risks. It also gives finance teams a comprehensive overview of crucial data, facilitates easy root cause analyses of quarterly outcomes, and allows executives to ask the right questions and get the meaningful answers that drive business growth.

The Take-Away 

The majority of executives worldwide continue to rely on spreadsheets when it comes to financial reporting. However, on their own, spreadsheets are static and cannot ensure data integrity or provide real-time insight into a company’s financial, management and performance data.

As a result, executives have difficulty making connections between their financial, management, and performance data and are typically unable to make well-informed decisions about the future.

Since executives continue to rely on spreadsheets, companies must adopt a solution that connects with their core financial system and automatically feeds data into spreadsheets, so executives can analyze final numbers with having to go through multiple request layers.

The solution should also be flexible enough to accommodate a range of business processes, so separate applications do not need to be maintained at a high cost.

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