If you’re creating and managing budgets in Excel today, you’re not alone. If you’re struggling to make Excel an efficient tool for doing so, you’re also not alone. Budgeting using spreadsheets is typically less efficient and hinders collaboration. It’s also error prone. Excel is a powerful personal productivity tool, but it lacks the capabilities necessary to develop the accurate, comprehensive budgets required by executive management, the board or lenders.
Here are six signs that your organization might be outgrowing Excel for budgeting.
1. The budgeting process takes too much time
Budgeting in Excel often requires several manual steps. It typically begins with downloading financial results from the accounting system, then cutting and pasting the data into the desired format across multiple Excel files, rolling up that data, updating formulas and links, building revenue and expense projections, updating forecasts, creating actual vs. budget reports—which always need to be checked for errors—and, finally, emailing files. Clearly, the budgeting process in Excel is both manual and time consuming. Last-minute changes to Excel files are difficult to manage, and it’s easy to forget to update links or formulas. Boards and CFOs depend on getting the right numbers, and errors reduce their confidence and could lead to misguided decisions.
2. It’s difficult to consolidate data
Budgeting often requires consolidating data from across the organization. The ability to access your data sources and pull up-to-the minute data is essential. This effort is compounded when pulling together data from disparate sources to create a more comprehensive picture. If your spreadsheets exist in isolation from your data sources, the time necessary for consolidation is significantly higher.
3. There are too many versions of files
Budget templates in Excel are manually prepared, shared and collected, which leads to version control issues. Multiple versions make it challenging to pinpoint the latest changes to a document and put additional strain on the team responsible for budgeting. Without version control, you end up with errors and added troubleshooting and auditing.
4. Limited Collaboration
When the budget process isn’t clearly defined, finance teams often struggle to get the right level of participation and buy-in from department managers. Passing spreadsheets back and forth makes it all too easy for people to delete rows and cells and break formulas and links. This process of collaboration is completely disconnected and leads to inefficiency, errors and limited visibility into changes being made. The lack of an audit trail makes it more difficult to investigate the source of mistakes and inaccuracies. Finance ends up spending the bulk of its time just verifying numbers are up to date and accurate.
5. Information is accidentally shared with others
Did you just send the Excel file with the salary info? Budgets contain sensitive information such as detailed spending for different departments as well as salaries. When you are using multiple Excel spreadsheets, it can be too easy to accidentally email the wrong file to the wrong people or authorize access to the wrong shared drivers – especially if you’re exhausted from spending all night working on the latest and greatest budget.
6. Reporting is delayed
By the time you have downloaded the unformatted financial results from the accounting system each month, cut and pasted the data into Excel, rolled up the data, and then sent out each spreadsheet to the appropriate group, a deadline has most likely been missed. That also assumes you made sure to check the entire process for errors and ensure the final reports tie-out to what’s in the source systems. That makes it difficult for decision-makers to analyze spending, plan ahead, and make proactive decisions for the financial health of the business.
NetSuite can help
Even one of these signs might be enough reason to move away from Excel for your budgeting process and start considering a budgeting solution. But the first question that might come to mind is whether planning and budgeting solutions are difficult to configure and expensive.
NetSuite Planning and Budgeting provides a powerful, yet easy-to-use-and-deploy budgeting solution. With pre-configured data synchronization with NetSuite General Ledger, your financial data is automatically pulled from NetSuite into the budgeting tool, manual data entry is eliminated, you always have the latest data at your fingertips and there is no need to worry about who got what data. Plus, you’re able to easily include everyone in the organization that needs to be involved in the budgeting process. This solution delivers the collaboration, control and visibility needed to better manage the complete budgeting process using one end-to-end solution.
Story by Rami Ali