Everybody who works in a finance department loves Excel.

So much so that it’s not only the go-to application within work – it gets a lot of use at home too.  Household budgeting, planning holidays, shopping lists – and dreaming of putting a band together called “Circular Reference” (why hasn’t anyone done this yet?).  However, this may just be me.

It is the Swiss Army knife within our toolbox when dealing with numbers and figures.

Excel is a fantastic tool for producing company Forecasts, Budgeting, and making sense of Actual values.  Bringing information together from various parts of a business – using formulas to make sense of the data – and producing a coherent plan.  All businesses, at some point, will have used Excel as their main planning tool.

As the years go by the flexibility and functionality of Excel just keeps getting better.  I’m sure most will remember the days where we were restricted to just 65k rows, a column limit, clunky graphs, and what seems now to be extremely slow calculation times.  Everything is a lot easier and quicker now – with much broader toolsets and functionality.

SO….after singing Excel’s praises….it’s time to talk about some of the drawbacks of planning using Excel, and how Spitfire have the software, skills, and expertise to help you improve your planning processes.

If all your financial planning and analysis is produced using Excel – there will some common issues that add time and confusion into the monthly routine.

  • Which is the most up to date version of the Excel sheet?
  • How long does it take to report Actual data?
  • How much work goes into producing Forecasts and Budgets?
  • Is it easy to change Excel based processes should the requirements change?
  • Where is the knowledge of how the sheets work held?

Are these the fault of Excel?

Most of the time it is the processes that surround Excel activities that are causing issues.

There comes a time for every finance department where you should take a step back from the monthly grind (month end close, reporting actuals, producing forecasts, journals, accruals, etc) and assess the departmental processes.  Are they accurate, are they timely, are they even required.

As companies grow and expand more data becomes available – more colleagues around the business have more requests on your departments time and more requests for analysed data.  My gut feeling is that finance users spend 80% of their time producing data and 20% of their time analysing data.  This should be the other way around.

Take a step back – look at all the processes within the department.  How many of those processes are manual (with Excel help) yet are the same every month.  How many of those processes are repeatable for each cost centre yet are essentially the same report from the same dataset.

Introducing a system – such as IBM Planning Analytics – can provide huge benefits.  Having all your data in one place – one version of the truth – and ready to be consumed without any additional work.  This can save a lot of time.  It changes the questions that are asked – from “Where is the data?” to “The data is telling me xyz, how can I use this to improve”.  At the same time leveraging your Excel skills – Planning Analytics loves Excel – and comes with an Excel add-in/ribbon to seamlessly link the two programs together.

Forecasting and Budgeting also become much easier.  All the required data is in one place.  No more transferring from one sheet to another.  No more waiting to receive emails with attachments.  The way this information is consumed is also greatly improved – whether though Excel, Web, or Mobile.

Learn more about IBM Planning Analytics here.

Outside of introducing a new system – there are also savings to be made by using some of Excel’s advanced functionality – mainly VBA/Macros.  If it takes 5 minutes to produce a cost centre report – and there are 100 cost centres – all based on the same set of Actual data with the same layout, graphs, and tables – then there are ways speed production up massively.  All repeatable processes can be automated.

If any of the above rings true for you and your company – then please get in touch with us.  Understanding your current systems and processes and producing more efficient, accurate, and timely processes is one of our core strengths.  We are more than happy meet with you to discuss your current situation, future needs, and describe how our consultancy and software services can provide tangible benefits.

How Planning Analytics supports Financial Consolidation across a Group


Adam Whittick

I enjoy finding efficiencies in company processes and activities, both through implementing completely new systems and working on existing systems to increase efficiency and accuracy.


Spitfire have a depth of understanding not only in Cognos/TM1 technologies, but also in finance and accounting. It is this combination of expertise and their ability to get to the heart of business problems that has resulted in such confidence in their delivery and capabilities. The insight and value-add they have brought is evident.

- Peter Smith, Head of Solution Delivery, Edrington

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