Is Excel going extinct in the world of evolving fintech?

EnterpriseWorx’s Ian Child reveals that Excel is not the right software for financial reporting.

One of the biggest challenges large corporations face when it comes to financial reporting is extracting data from various accounting institutions or multiple entities across different financial periods. Data consolidating under these circumstances can become extremely painful.

“That’s the reason for products like ours or the very expensive Oracle Hyperion,” said EnterpriseWorx product and service advocate Ian Child at a webinar hosted by CFO South Africa.

Strategic business and product manager Trevor Niemack said EnterpriseWorx spent the past two years building and perfecting systems that help companies with big data sets to consolidate their information and get it out to the relevant people in time. “We’ve worked with some fairly large organisations creating automated income statements, balance sheets, cash flows, and also drill-downs into your sub-margins,” said Trevor. These systems are so intelligent that finance professionals are able to home in on single entries within these complex, voluminous journals and provide insight into how it affected the entire report.

But does the introduction of advanced accounting solutions render mainstay accounting software like Excel completely useless? Lombard Insurance chief technology officer and EnterpriseWorx client Barry Dickson maintains that Excel is still relevant.

“The pre-world is Excel-based, multiple systems, manual capturing and triple-checking financial statements. We didn’t turn that off overnight,” said Barry.

Ian said that while Excel is a great tool, it’s not the right software for financial reporting.
“Excel has been used by accountants and finance professionals for a very long time, but any organisation of any size knows how quickly you can get to Excel hell.”

Excel has limited capacity in terms of version control and auditing formulas. Ian said those spreadsheets are also prone to errors. Barry said the debate around Excel’s relevance is interesting. “The reality is, even when you have the most powerful BI tools and you have a very tech-savvy or orientated business team, you still have Excel in the environment, you just don’t want Excel as the source of the data.”

Barry described building new tools into the business as a constant journey. He said businesses take time to trust new technologies and to get comfortable using them. “You’ve got to give them that comfort to get going. But at the same time, Excel can’t be that source of the data and if you have your toolset correct with business functionality needs, then they use Excel where it should be and they don’t use it for building reports five times over.”

Trevor explained that EnterpriseWorx recently deployed the full spectrum of tools at one of the country’s biggest retail groups. “They have a lot of moving plants, transactions, and large sets of data. They can now see their full balance sheet and all their budgeting. We enabled them to also do forecasting around that.”

Ian said that particular group has come a long way since implementing EnterpriseWorx. “They were definitely in Excel hell, but now they’re able to cut the time that is required to produce a set of results quite dramatically.” He added that the reports are now created with far greater consistency and accuracy than they were before.