Spreadsheets are great business tools. There, we said it. And we mean it. We value spreadsheets in our business, and recognize their role across our own enterprise.
We know that Microsoft Excel has been the foundation of financial strategy, planning, tracking and reporting for decades. In fact, it may difficult to find a company that does not use it. People are hired because they have the expert ability to manipulate rows and columns.We also know that spreadsheets are not going away, nor do we expect or want them to. If you look over the past several years, it’s clear that the spreadsheet is deeply embedded in business workflows and software providers are working hard to make users even more dependent on their macros and functions. The challenge, however, comes when Excel is embraced and used as a business intelligence (BI) tool.
At a recent user conference for a leading ERP system, 84 percent of survey respondents indicated that their current BI tool is Excel.
This is not surprising considering that 750 million people use Excel as their go-to tool for presenting and analyzing data. That said, when you consider all of the data being created, managed, extracted, manipulated and shared within a single business, spreadsheets may not be enough. Excel was not created to be your primary BI tool, and an increasing number of people recognize that to be successful, they need better, more powerful BI solutions. Despite add-ons, new chart types, and power features, the spreadsheet is what it is; an easily modified container for data that represents a moment in time for part of your business. This is neither praise nor a knock against Excel; rather it is simply reality.
At the pace of business today, you don’t have the time or luxury of wasting resources and relying on incomplete information.
Manipulating multiple spreadsheets to answer key business questions can be time consuming and inefficient.
You need to be able to drill down through your data to identify existing challenges and new opportunities. Your company produces too much data on a daily basis to rely on a static spreadsheet of information to make critical business decisions. You need the big, clear picture of what is happening across your enterprise now.
This eBook will address where Excel has fallen short as a BI tool and detail the business benefits of a focused BI solution, such as Phocas, from simplicity and visual analysis to dashboards and mobile access.
We will also discuss the ongoing debate between BI and Excel and whether they are friends or foes.
Why not just Excel?
We have all heard the phrase “Excel Hell,” or the practice of getting stuck in an endless cycle of managing and manipulating large amounts of data across a cascade of spreadsheets.
Things get worse when rows or columns end up missing, someone made a change in the numbers that has thrown the results out of whack, or a misplaced decimal point has created a multi-million dollar reporting error. According to one study, 88 percent of spreadsheets contain errors and nearly “one in five large businesses have suffered financial loses as a result of errors in spreadsheets.” There are dozens of Excel horror stories across the web telling how companies lost share value, underestimated costs, misrepresented financial statements and overstated value because of mistakes in a single cell.
By itself, Excel is not the BI solution that companies need. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Unreliable sources
As long as there have been spreadsheets, mistakes have been made.Spreadsheet errors are often a function of a bigger problem. In today’s work environments, documents and spreadsheets are shared with multiple people and across several departments. It can difficult to keep track of who is adding to and deleting from the workbooks. An accidental deletion or a copy-and-paste error made somewhere along the line may be untraceable and lead to a catastrophic event. JP Morgan, for example, lost $3.1 billion in 2012 when a key measure in a manually maintained spreadsheet was added when it should have been averaged. Because individuals are the sources, data integrity is questionable.