Disconnected Data: Multiple Spreadsheets and Systems Affect your Financials

Multiple spreadsheets for different purposes provide a way to organize related data. As an accounting manager, you probably evaluate that data within the context of the sheet and its relation to data in the other sheets. Sure it’s a flexible arrangement, but it often comes with its fair share of confusion.

The article “Top Five Dangers of Using Spreadsheets in Finance” published on Tech Target, explains that most of organizations operating today still cling to spreadsheets.

According to a survey conducted by San Ramon, California based Ventana Research, respondents were asked if they were aware of better alternatives to Excel for performing critical financial functions. Only 49% said “yes.” The remaining half were divided between “don’t know” with 32%, and “no” with only 19%.

“They haven’t looked up from their spreadsheets to see if there are better ways,” said Robert Kugel, Ventana Senior Vice President and Research Director.

He added that even when users are aware of more attractive options, they rarely move away from Excel. This could be due to weak business cases for new systems or fear of change.

While programs such as Excel can be the right tool for certain tasks, such as ad hoc analysis, storage of small data sets and creating simple models, using Excel for tasks that it can’t handle can be more damaging than one may realize. In simpler words, programs such as Excel are meant to be lightweight databases.

So if you use multiple spreadsheets and systems to handle your financials, chances are you are familiar with the following challenges:

Reporting

Sorting through multiple spreadsheets or using multiple systems to compile your data can be confusing. Not only is it confusing, but these countless numbers and transactions are distracting. To do your job successfully, you need to be able to have full control of your data.

Accuracy

To have the information work for you, you have to struggle to get the data into the tools you know and love by manual entry. Not only are you trapped by technology, but also this manual inputting of data is highly prone to error.

Ease of Access

As an accounting manager you touch all aspects of business- executives, managers, production, sales, and customers. They might need your reports at any given moment. Having quick, easy access to your data is the only way to keep the business cycle flowing smoothly.

Performance

Last but not least, using multiple spreadsheets and applications is incredibly time-consuming in the long run. Nobody wants to spend 14 hours each month “consolidating”, modifying, and correcting data. You will eventually get tired of this process, which will affect your workflow and motivation.

To get a better understanding of how these challenges affect accounting managers in our industry, I asked one of our customer’s flock accountant’s what his day-to-day tasks looked like prior to having their systems integrated, and what it took for him to manually track the cost of each new layer flock using Excel.

The following are just a few of the tedious tasks that he had to manually track:

  • Every payable invoice for flock cost breakdown
  • Detailed cost of vaccine inventory used for the flock
  • Detailed cost of feed delivered to the flock from the mill
  • Labor costs associated with the flock
  • General ledger journal entry detail for flock breakdown

After all these costs were gathered for a specific flock, he then had to create a second Excel sheet to depreciate the cost of the birds over the life of the flock. While he spent hours doing this work manually, he encountered data errors that affected his projections.

While Excel spreadsheets along with certain applications still have a place somewhere in finance, such as formatting charts and graphs, you as an accounting manager need an integrated system that allows for automation and coordination.

Today, many layer and broiler companies have started using tailored software to fuel their growth. Others are still struggling to keep up with their data and manage costs effectively because they use multiple spreadsheets and multiple systems.

Integrated business software suites are transforming how companies operate. It enables them to transcend growing pains that were previously holding them back from taking their business to the next level of profitable growth.