Finance Chiefs Are Still Trying to Replace Excel With New Tools

Table of Contents Levi Strauss CFO Harmit Singh.An Excel spreadsheet.Workiva CFO Jill Klindt.E-newsletter Indication-up CFO…

Finance Chiefs Are Still Trying to Replace Excel With New Tools

Finance chiefs are even now attempting to get staff to move away from Microsoft Excel, the ubiquitous spreadsheet method cherished and loathed by accounting pros.

While several nonetheless see it as a practical resource, some CFOs say finance teams rely on it as well significantly, normally for tasks that Excel is not perfectly-suited to manage. That can guide to blunders and wasted time.

Microsoft Corp.

moved Excel and its other Office environment merchandise to the cloud a decade ago and has available a range of new characteristics and updates considering the fact that. But some finance chiefs however want to minimize their reliance on the application in favor of plans that far more successfully automate knowledge assortment and assessment. They say there are limitations to Excel’s usefulness, with people having a challenging time holding track of improvements and verifying monetary information.

Final year’s abrupt shift to remote work during the pandemic, which pressured finance chiefs to handle corporate finances and shut the guides remotely, highlighted shortfalls in making use of Excel, stated Glenn Hafler, a principal at advisory firm

Hackett Group Inc.

“The pandemic definitely exposed the vulnerability that finance teams have as a final result of their dependence on Excel,” Mr. Hafler reported.

Levi Strauss CFO Harmit Singh.



Picture:

Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg News

Inputting info manually, which is what a lot of consumers even now do, can be time-consuming and final result in mistakes that go unnoticed, especially when staff members are scattered in remote perform areas.

Pure Cycle Corp.

, a h2o- and land-administration firm primarily based in Watkins, Colo., previously this month disclosed it experienced corrected an accounting mistake that originated in an Excel sheet.

The mistake was a result of sophisticated formulation employed to allocate costs and a lack of in depth review by the company’s administration, mentioned

Kevin McNeill,

Pure Cycle’s chief money officer.

“Excel is an extremely valuable instrument, but I assume most firms, like us, set far too substantially reliance into it,” he said.

Pure Cycle, which claimed about $500,000 additional in quarterly desire profits than it really should have, is introducing extra controls all over its reporting processes and shifting as numerous tasks as attainable into its accounting program to stay away from overusing Excel, Mr. McNeill stated. The company booked $2.6 million in revenue all through the quarter finished May well 31, up from $1.8 million for the duration of the prior-year period.


‘Excel is an particularly worthwhile device, but I think most providers, such as us, place too substantially reliance into it.’


— Pure Cycle Main Economical Officer Kevin McNeill

The common use of Microsoft’s Home windows operating procedure and Business suite of products in the 1990s aided establish Excel as a marketplace chief in spreadsheets. Finance staff members grew acquainted with the software and cultivated their personal strategies of operating in it above the years. It’s a pattern numerous have identified challenging to break, even as new organization software and other spreadsheet choices, these types of as Google Sheets, have grow to be out there.

It isn’t just smaller providers like Pure Cycle that count on Excel. Bigger businesses, for instance denims maker

Levi Strauss

& Co., which generated $4.5 billion in income past year, also use it.

Levi’s runs its supply preparing on Excel, which covers raw components, interactions with suppliers and potential arranging, according to

Harmit Singh,

the company’s finance chief. But that is set to transform, as the business is functioning to introduce a new artificial intelligence tool to take care of these jobs. The changeover will materialize over the upcoming two many years and the initial responsibilities will transfer off Excel in early 2022, according to the firm. “The pandemic strengthened the small business situation for the modify,” the company claimed.

Microsoft mentioned it is updating Excel—which moved to the cloud in 2011 as component of Office 365 and is now 1 of the programs in the company’s Microsoft 365 offerings—every thirty day period and pointed to new options, this sort of as just one that tracks variations for every spreadsheet mobile that released this spring. Yet another new perform permits buyers to create a method and share it with other folks in a workbook, a selection of one or extra spreadsheets.

An Excel spreadsheet.



Photo:

Microsoft

“Excel is a nicely-loved product throughout all of our prospects,” mentioned Brian Jones, head of solution for Excel, incorporating that it can be utilised on any system or gadget.

Microsoft declined to deliver a current determine for the variety of enterprises that use Excel but pointed to 258 million paid end users of its Microsoft 365 industrial suite of office goods at the finish of the first quarter of 2020. Monthly utilization of Microsoft Excel is up almost 30% 12 months more than 12 months, in accordance to a spokesman.

These improvements, even so, really don’t consider absent CFOs’ desire to grow to be less dependent on Excel. “That could help to some extent, but acquiring complicated schedules into our accounting application is nonetheless a better solution,” Pure Cycle’s Mr. McNeill claimed. Levi’s stated recent updates to Excel have not adjusted the need for a lot more refined instruments.

Corporations looking to exchange Excel—at the very least partly—have a vary of options, relying on the activity at hand.

SAP SE,

OneStream Software package LLC,

Oracle Corp.

,

Anaplan Inc.

and

Workiva Inc.

are among the the corporations providing cloud-centered facts technologies for various areas of the finance purpose.

Workiva CFO Jill Klindt.



Photograph:

Workiva

San Francisco-based mostly Anaplan earlier this year hired Victor Barnes, a previous divisional CFO at

Coca-Cola Co.

, to encourage its solution to enterprise prospects. Throughout his time at Coca-Cola, Mr. Barnes experienced his team change from Excel to Anaplan for extended-phrase scheduling procedures, which minimized the quantity of time needed to consolidate the information by additional than 70%, to two weeks, he mentioned. Anaplan said its profits has grown in recent quarters as it signed up far more prospects.

Workiva delivers a software program-as-a-service system for economical and nonfinancial reporting and compliance, but even so, CFO

Jill Klindt

claims some on her crew use Excel, something she is hoping to restrict.

The company’s finance functionality in February moved to a new planning and investigation resource and is automating tasks this kind of as acceptance of expenditure experiences. “We continue on to place in location programs that cut down the reliance on Excel,” she reported, introducing that Microsoft’s updates to Excel really don’t adjust that.

Workiva also has expert an uptick in consumer demand because the pandemic, Ms. Klindt said.

Consultants say it isn’t only the IT that requirements to improve, but also the way men and women manage finance responsibilities. Otherwise, firms operate the threat of investing revenue on new programs whilst personnel continue on working in Excel and only duplicate and paste the facts in the end, mentioned Vanessa Keating, who prospects Hackett’s electronic finance advisory practice.

“This is what they know and what they are comfortable with,” she said of Excel. Finance chiefs have to have to reorganize workflows and processes to guarantee that the changeover absent from Excel succeeds.

Even now, in spite of companies’ efforts, executives and advisers mentioned they are not sure no matter if Excel will ever really vanish.

“It is deep in people’s minds,” stated Workiva’s Ms. Klindt. “I am not the sort of human being who would ban it.”

Write to Nina Trentmann at [email protected]

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