Want to Excel? Stop Using Excel.

Excel is one of the most venerable and versatile pieces of software ever conceived, a digital chameleon that can make almost any task involving numbers easier and more efficient.  But it’s not the right tool for every job, and many companies try to fit the square pegs of accounting and performance management into the round hole of Excel’s capabilities.  Here are some of the challenges involved in using Excel for the wrong purposes, and thoughts about a better solution.

Herding digital cats.  What often happens with companies using Excel for management reporting is that each department creates its own spreadsheet template, with no audit trail of changes along the way, making it difficult for others to discern what was changed.  And pity the person or people tasked with reconciling all of the different templates as they’re passed up the chain … the process is a recipe for mistakes and misunderstandings.

Consider instead a cloud-based solution such as Cloudkeeping™ where each department’s changes are easy to track, consistent from department to department and centrally located … no more multiple versions of the same spreadsheet in circulation.

Locking down data.  Email is not a secure form of communication, and sending spreadsheets from one inbox to another invites unauthorized access to vital data.

In a cloud environment, company data stays where it belongs … securely stored on a central server and accessible only by those who are authorized.

Affordability.  Many companies turn to Excel as a financial management solution because of the prohibitive cost of specialized software and the hardware needed to run it.  Startup costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention the associated maintenance, upgrades, renewals and, in some cases, additional personnel.

The startup costs associated with Cloudkeeping™ or a similar solution are generally a small fraction of those associated with server-based software.  Because the processing happens in the cloud, and because the program is accessible from any type of device, in most cases no new hardware is necessary.  And updates happen automatically with no user intervention.

Excel and access.  When a spreadsheet is circulated, it’s virtually impossible to control user access to certain cells.  Often the result is formula cells that are altered inadvertently, leading to data errors (in up to 90% of spreadsheets according to one estimate).

In a cloud computing solution data integrity is controlled with varying levels of user access, in some cases down to individual fields.  Only the people who should be able to change a given set of data are able to do so.

You can take it with you.  Ironically, the weaknesses of Excel can add up to a primary barrier to change: companies have so much time invested in creating and tweaking their spreadsheets that they fear the time and cost involved in starting over with a different platform.

Migrating to a cloud-based solution like Cloudkeeping™ is often a much more streamlined experience than companies expect.  Existing fields and data can be preserved, allowing a company to get the most out of the time they’ve invested in Excel, and to look forward to greater productivity, more accurate data and better decision-making.

For more information about Cloudkeeping™ please contact Becky DaVee, CPA, partner Salmon Sims Thomas & Associates.