Spreadsheets vs Budget planning system
'Get with it and use budget planning software,' my boss always says to me. 'I'm just fine with Excel spreadsheets thanks', I say back. And like always, she shakes her head and tries to slip me a brochure on some fancy budget planning software which does everything from the cloud.
Seriously, I love spreadsheets. And I'm not alone. Satya Nadella has proclaimed Excel as Microsoft's most important consumer product. So if Excel's good enough for Satya, and the other estimated 750 million users worldwide, it's good enough for me. And here's why.
Excel is a single-user tool. So that means that no-one else can use it while I'm working on it. When I want or need their input, I'm happy to share a copy by email, or even give them a link so they can download, do their bit, and send it back. That way, I always know where the file is. To stay organised, I add version numbers to each spreadsheet I can track the version and where they are. I keep those details on another spreadsheet.
If the rest of the finance team insist on working on the budget at the same time as me, I send them a copy – then I transfer their changes over to my master spreadsheet. Sure, it takes a bit of time, and sometimes I miss their updates, but it still works.
Some people have commented that spreadsheets aren't that secure. And I will admit that it does get a bit tricky when other people shouldn't have access to sensitive information. But I trust them not to look. (If I feel really insecure, I manually extract all the information they shouldn't see, and add it back in later).
At times I do have a bit of an issue emailing my spreadsheets. Some of them hold a huge amount of data – years and years’ worth - and get quite unwieldy. And I did once send the budget and forecasting spreadsheet to a friend at a competing company by mistake. But I’m sure he deleted it, he’s a good sort.
According to Forbes, spreadsheets are rife with errors. They say an estimated 88% of spreadsheets include mistakes, and half of those used by big businesses have “material defects.” But I am a bit of a whiz, so I’m (fairly) confident that mine are fine.
I love creating spreadsheet templates – they are a thing of beauty. However, I do get frustrated when others don’t ‘get’ my spreadsheets, and break them. The last time it happened my consolidation process was destroyed, and it took months for me to fix, so everyone had to wait for the new budget (that’ll teach them!). Still, no harm done.
I like to do things properly, and I know that introducing new systems rapidly gets out of control. While some may call my annual budget process antiquated, I can’t see the need to move to a monthly forecasting process. Being accurate and responsive isn’t everything in life or business.
My boss sends me emails with facts and figures like ‘finance staff spend 21% of their time analysing data, and 79% on manual budgeting’, and that ‘20% of all enterprises have suffered a financial loss due to spreadsheet errors’.
I wish she’d just come out and say what’s on her mind.