There are many types of software available for what is called “Financial Planning and Analytics” or FP&A software. A brief trip to Google shows 3.6 million returns for the search term. What’s interesting is that many of the companies who show up at the top of the list have become extremely valuable. What’s even more interesting is that their most effective competitor and market leader by far in terms of budgeting is something most people perceive to be free – a spreadsheet.
It seems probable that even when a company invests in some fancy software, the basic work will be carried out by departmental heads in the ubiquitous Excel (other options exist). The trouble with this is that whatever method most people use, the annual budgeting round is not something anyone looks forward to and it’s a period of time that consumes an inordinate amount of people’s time. Between 8 and 10 weeks is fairly typical. If ever there was a process that required simplification, this is it.
The saying that the “customer is always right” is often laughed at but shouldn’t be, when it comes to budget creation. The budget process without Excel is like a pub with no beer, if we can use that expression in a lockdown. People like it, they feel comfortable with it and it works for all scenarios. They can express whatever logic they require in a format they understand. The problem arises when logic is intertwined with data, the data has no audit trail to it, frequently the spreadsheet has many tabs linked with formulas that no-one understands fully. Worse still, anyone can overwrite or disturb any formula such that the output numbers look “about right” but that the sabotage or error goes unnoticed. This is not a good way to go. Furthermore, the complex setup of the spreadsheet is something that is a precursor to actually using it and needs to be done repeatedly.
Time savings Vs standalone Excel is 75%. None of the various companies who appear in search results can offer that. And none of them can offer full integration with Excel.