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Why Adaptive Planning is Better Than Excel

Excel has become part of the computer alphabet. Primary operations with excel is taught to secondary school students as part of their curriculum. It offers a massive range of features that can be made use of to carry out several different genres of tasks for individuals, groups and even entire organizations. Financial Planning, Budgeting, Forecasting, Reporting and other operations is what Excel was primarily designed for. Sure enough, it allows users to perform these operations with ease.

Going about these tasks with excel is simple. All you need to do is create a blank relation. A relation is usually a table with rows and columns, individual rows and individual columns having functions and relations shared between them. Once you have your relation template, you email it to different personnel in your firm asking them to input the tables with the appropriate data for your consideration. Upon receiving the data, you simply take them together into a single file in a process known as consolidation in order to have a full data package for your organization.

However, for all its simplicity and powerful operation, some experts have stated that Excel is, perhaps, overtly simple. In a world where almost any computer can run, perhaps a hundred excel spread sheets parallel at the same time, it is clearly evident that a slightly more powerful tool could have been handier, and would have prevented users falling prey to the subtle problems Excel poses to its users, probably only on grounds of its simplicity.

Understandably, several businesses across the world that, until now, relied on Excel or Excel based software for their forecasting, budgeting and reporting are now resorting to different means. In a groundbreaking discovery, a certain financial consulting agency analyzed over ten thousand excel spreadsheets from a sample space of companies, and determined that errors caused on account of Excel’s imperfect working environment has affected five per cent of the firms’ bottom lines. Hence, people started asking whether there was any need to go on misusing Excel when there were better options like Adaptive Planning now available. Following are a few of the major setbacks Excel poses to users who use it for performance management.

Single User Environment

It is surprising that Excel is still a single-user tool. This is because the last single-user programming language, ForPro, went obsolete decades ago! Today, it is an age of multiple user interfaces. If you look at the open source Excel Emulator Google’s latest “Drive” available for its users, you’ll be pleased to notice that even a web-based emulator of Excel is multi-user compatible. Not so for the big gun. In Excel, if you require inputs from ten people onto a single Excel file, then you would have to circulate the same document one by one to these ten people and wait for them to complete their portions of the spreadsheet until you can proceed with your work. Often times, your work will be delayed overnight. If you’re really unlucky, one of your collaborators would accidentally change a portion of the spread sheet that was not theirs to modify, and you would be left with incorrect data!

Distribution Problems

Ok, so you’re sending out individual spreadsheets. How? Emailing out a spreadsheet means it can end up literally anywhere. Not good if it contains confidential company information. If your spreadsheet is particularly large, emailing would become problematic. I recall a customer whose budget spreadsheet had grown to over 100MB and thus unwieldy for email. Therefore, it had to reside on the ‘Budget PC’ – a computer that budget contributors had to physically go to in order to update their budget details! In any event, you want to keep your data safe and secure, and that’s not going to happen while it resides in an Excel spreadsheet.

Even more importantly, every finance personnel will agree that the calculations one has conducted on the spread sheet is not for everyone else to see. Also, data entered by one collaborator on your excel sheet might be inappropriate to be shown to another collaborator. But with Excel, the only way around this problem is to create separate spread sheets for each collaborator, circulate them, and then put together all the little bits and pieces of data into a single unit manually. If you want to show a particular part of your spread sheet to a particular user, or to keep your own calculations and assumptions private, then Excel is clearly not the tool to bank on!

Data Redundancy

Think about it: you created a spread sheet to be collaborated with ten people, and sent out the spread sheet to ten different people for them to input their information in. Once the last person sends you back your spread sheet, you will be in possession of not one, but TEN different versions of the same sheet. How would you further manage the conundrum it creates?

Also, oftentimes collaborators decide to create their own different versions of the same spread sheet to consider different scenarios of the same event (maximum profit, least time, maximum productivity, etc.) which invariably get transferred to the controller of accounts. How it is that one determines which version is latest, and which version is the one that he/she was working on? That’s right, there is no known way out of this problem except to drop excel for good.

Broken Spreadsheet Templates

This happens to be one of the most irritating problems that Excel can create. Because of its simplistic nature, the software works primarily on user-created templates. Now, in most medium to large scale companies, consolidation of all the aspects of a certain project requires inputs from tens, sometimes hundreds of collaborators. The problem is, that if ANY of these collaborators modify your template to make it easier for them to input data, your idea of consolidating those hundred instances of data goes down the drain. This is because if you have different collaborators sending data in different template, there is no way for you to consolidate them the right way!

Also, templates typically contain formulae relating one cell in the spread sheet to another. It is invariable that some user will accidentally break the chain for formulae that you created for your template. When this happens, you shall have to re-make the templates for each of the hundreds of data files separately for your consolidation to even begin!

Impossible to Show Approval or Track Work Progress

OK, so you took care of all the mismatches in templates and file versions with great patience and have now created the final consolidated spread sheet which needs to be approved by each of your contributors. Oh wait, Approved? Microsoft Excel has no means for one user to approve the work of another user on spread sheet (remember, it is a single user software). Hence, the only way to deal with the issue is to create a separate template for users to fill in their approvals. Even so, the approvals can be most misleading and lacking security as there will be no means for inserting digital signatures in these templates.

Also, when your spread sheet is out with the team of collaborators, how to you make sure who has the template currently, and how far your work has proceeded? The only way is to call up individual members of the group asking if they have it.

Given all of the above, it becomes abundantly clear that although Excel is an excellent software for small businesses, it becomes a finance personnel’s worst enemy when dealing with a lot of contributors. Hence, if you believe financial management is about analyzing data more than it is about getting the data right in the first place, if you think your company will gain from having a finance management division that runs a multi-user software, then it is time to  drop Excel and move on to a better, more advanced software.

Reasons in Favour of Adaptive Planning

The math is simple: Adaptive planning builds out of each and every one of the problems excel creates as discussed above, and then builds on from it to create the most impeccable, peerless and immensely powerful performance management tool ever.

Its multi user environment means that you can share separate instances of the same spread sheet with different contributors in an easy to use graphic user interface, keeping individual data and your own working safely private. Also, it does not require forwarding a single spread sheet to others using email as an unlimited number of personnel can work on different instances of the same spread sheet at a time, since the entire thing is located on the cloud.

Finally, the software produces all reports, forecasts and budgets in real time this means that all data you see in the reports created by Adaptive Planning are reports that exist in the company database at the present i.e. at the instant at which you read it. Hence, there will be no such thing as an obsolete financial report in your firm any more.

These, combined with a host of other factors, make Adaptive Planning one of the best financial consulting software in the present day market.