Is it time to say kiss spreadsheets goodbye?

“CFOs and Finance Directors have long been warned against the inaccuracies of spreadsheets when it comes to financial planning and analysis. However, as with everything in life, change can often be difficult to accept and this is often the case when it comes to businesses and their financial tools,” Robert Gothan writes for BetaNews. “Sometimes this is because they are reluctant to try something new, but alarmingly, more often than not, it is because the businesses are not aware of the different options available.”

“Research from Accountagility shows that 72 percent of CFOs consider their firms to be too reliant on spreadsheets,” Gothan writes. “The larger the company, the more spreadsheets are deployed, and the greater the issues and headaches that occur. While Excel is clearly a central tool in many offices, businesses must also consider finance-friendly alternatives that address these risks whilst also respecting the need for control.”

“Excel has now been on the market for over 30 years, which is a testament to its popularity and success,” Gothan writes. “However, as new technology becomes available, businesses will need to review their planning, forecasting and reporting tools very carefully in order to ensure they have the most effective means of analyzing their data. Finance Directors, in particular, will need to consider what the business needs from its software before deciding which tools will be best suited to their needs.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Once again, apply Betteridge’s law of headlines, but before you jump straight for Numbers or – gack! – Excel, consider whether a spreadsheet is the most appropriate solution for the matter at hand.

18 Comments

    1. Agreed. MS Access is really what most firms need to use for LARGE databases. If you have Excel, you have Access. So use it. Granted, you have to know how to write a bit of code, but its well worth it. I recently converted 8 super spreadsheets into one manageable Access database that everyone can use at the same time and the data gets updated immediately.

    2. I can well understand that sentiment since Excel database. Access certainly is a real database program and its relatively user friendly. But its limited scalability is a problem in an era when we want to be able to query tens of millions of records. Still need a mainframe for that – not sure why in this day and age.

  1. Beware if the following with Excel:

    A company I visited did their calculation in Excel, and copied the cells with the result into a Word document which they then send to their client. Little did they know that not just those cells but the WHOLE SPREADSHEET gets embedded in the Word document. A simple double-click on those cells ON ANOTHER COMPUTER in Word opened the whole spreadsheet in Excel.

    A cancer researcher analyzed his data in Excel. Unbeknown to him when importing the original data (hundreds of thousands of lines) names like Jun16 or Oct4 (very important gene and protein names) got turned into dates. Setting the column with the names to text then turned those dates not back into the proper names, but into arbitrary numbers like 1735972647382.

    Excel is also notoriously bad at curve fitting. Non-linear data will result in a wrong fit (even if you try to “linearize” them first).

    You have been warned.

    1. Object linking and embedding was a terrible idea who’s time should have passed a long time ago. It should be off by default to avoid the scenario you outlined.

      1. Data spills of proprietary information with sensitive company financials or personal information happen all too often when someone copies a small portion on an Excel spreadsheet into a Word document. Too many people don’t realize that the whole Excel document is copied and not just the selected cells.

  2. I use Excel for pulling data from multiple sources and then doing analysis and generating a report.

    Its well suited for that kind of work. I wouldn’t recommend anyone try and run a business out of a monster spreadsheet, that is just asking for trouble!

  3. My ex wife and build an operated for 19 years a business that was first built on an Appleworks database and then moved to Filemaker Pro a couple of years later. The people we sold the business to were Windowsheads and tried to recreate it in Access, no way we could help them on that, so it was sayonara.

    And of course, Apple basically abandoned both Appleworks and Filemaker Pro.

    What could have been……….

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