“Excel hell’ is a term I’m hearing more and more these days. Truth be told, I’ve been trapped in Excel hell numerous times – and continue to be – but have made a pact with myself that I will do anything to get out of it. Excel is a fundamental tool of accounting and finance teams throughout our industry. I would venture to guess that most of us are pretty good at it, but we don’t really utilize macro’s or understand what VBA stands for. Consequently the shortcuts and safeguards against blown formulas that these functions provide aren’t utilized and our hell perpetuates itself. We create complex spreadsheets to handle everything from “self-creating” journal entries, pivot tables to explain data relationships to restaurant operators, and financial forecast that always, and I mean always, have formula errors. Even worse, we use financial reporting systems that RELY on Excel to be the reporting tool (think Great Pains)! Who in their right mind would keep us trapped in Excel hell by forcing us to do all of our reporting in Excel? What’s worse is the impact that ever growing amounts of data is having on our Excel world.
Excel by its nature is a flat reporting tool. You can’t drill down to the source data. You can use pivot tables to achieve a somewhat drilldown environment, but as the data gets larger and larger good luck sharing those tables with others. Part of the answer to escaping this hell is to take a hard look at your base accounting and finance systems. Are they adding to the problem or are they part of the solution? If you’re exporting financials to Excel in order to format, consolidate, or otherwise manipulate financials (converting to pdf doc reporting books, etc), I have one word for you – STOP! Move to a cloud based system that has a solid financial reporting package onboard that doesn’t rely on exports. You’ll be able to drill down to levels even Excel can’t get to (seeing the actual copies of invoices for instance), and you can share what you want, with whom you want, when you want without having to email, or give permissions to files in Dropbox.
Stop using Excel as a data aggregator and BI tool. Invest in real BI software that aggregates all of your enterprise data in a cloud based warehouse. Although not inexpensive, all of these tools will create impressive ROI and free you from Excel hell.