Spreadsheets are a key financial planning and reporting tool for many businesses due to ease of access, user friendliness and wide popularity. While spreadsheets can be a good personal productivity tool, they don’t support collaboration and are vulnerable to corruption and human error, which may cause significant financial and operational harm for organisations.
In the new digitalised business environment, spreadsheets can’t support business agility because they don’t provide real-time business insights, nor do they easily scale or have the flexibility required to quickly accommodate business or market changes.
For these reasons, many organisations are moving to automated planning and reporting tools to achieve time and cost savings, reduce the risk of errors and proactively manage resources through scenario modelling.
There are four key benefits that organisations can immediately gain from replacing spreadsheets with an automated planning and reporting solution:
1. Reduced planning cycle time and resource costs
Automated planning enables rolling forecasts and higher frequency planning by consolidating figures across multiple contributors in real time and managing team collaboration with workflows. This provides a more streamlined process that improves organisational efficiencies and can reduce weeks of work down to days or hours.
Automated reporting significantly reduces month-end cycles by instantly generating comprehensive and accurate online reports comparing actuals against plans. These can be securely accessed on any internet-connected device, leaving more time for the finance team and the wider business to spend on analysis and taking corrective actions.
2. Improved productivity and employee experience
Manually generating financial reports and plans is a time consuming and tedious process that impacts organisational productivity as well as employee productivity and engagement. Companies that use automated processes tend to have higher productivity and staff retention rates than those that rely on manual processes.
In fact, when automation can handle up to 45 per cent of repetitive work, it gives workers time for higher-value tasks such as innovative thinking for problem-solving, finding business solutions and developing new ideas. This empowers employees and generates a more engaging and challenging work experience.
3. Enhanced visibility into business performance
As organisations grow and diversify, so do their information needs. Spreadsheet-based reports and planning templates can’t instantly scale and diversify with the organisation. Instead, they can often be a roadblock to business agility, with many organisations needing to create additional spreadsheets, or completely redo spreadsheets, as business needs change.
It’s impossible to manage what you can’t measure, and it’s impossible to measure what you can’t see. Organisations that want to grow, scale and remain agile in the new business environment need instant access to accurate data so they can more easily define and track metrics, and monetise the value of the information at their fingertips.
Automated planning and reporting tools give organisations real-time, accurate insights into performance across all lines of the business, as well as the ability to undertake quick and easy scenario modelling. This underpins more informed decision-making and can reveal opportunities for the organisation to gain an advantage over its competitors.
4. A more responsive and proactive finance team
An empowered and proactive finance team leads to a more responsive and proactive organisation that can weather any market conditions. Automated financial tools speed up the process of gathering data and generating reports, even for data that is many years old, completing in minutes what used to take days or weeks. As a result, the finance team can rely on a single source of truth from a centralised and secure online location, that is accessible on demand.
Immediate access to accurate and comprehensive data lets the finance team more easily and effectively provide actionable insights that give the organisation a competitive advantage. At the same time, data security, compliance and governance needs are built into the solution, which frees up the finance team’s time and resources to investigate and execute on new opportunities.
Organisations that adopt automation can take advantage of significant time, cost and resource savings, which can be reinvested in strategic activities that support long-term business agility. This will put them way ahead of businesses that continue to be bogged down in costly manual processes. The future of business in the post-pandemic era depends on survival of the fittest, and the fittest businesses will depend on automated planning and reporting tools.