Insight: Relieve the Pain!

– There must be a better tool for planning than excel

Plans help companies set out, communicate and track the achievement of their strategies. And yet it is peculiar that in today’s advanced technology world, many large organisations including FTSE100s and public sector bodies are still using Microsoft Excel as their main tool for planning, budgeting and forecasting.

The story from one of our clients summarises the pain:

“We have started with a simple planning spreadsheet, but over time it has developed into a monster solution with complex formulas linking multiple spreadsheets. The spreadsheet is so complex that only Douglas from group FP&A understands how it works. Poor guy, he needs to plan his holidays carefully so that it does not coincide with our annual budgeting, monthly forecasting, and month end reporting cycles. Not to mention the amount of work when there is a new boss or an acquisition. It feels like we spend more time adjusting formulas and copying and pasting data than doing “real” work. And there is always an issue with the numbers – this month there was a problem with our ROCE calculation, last month it was our cash flow. Are we ever going to go through a forecasting exercise seamlessly?”

But how come companies allowed this to happen? Excel is more than a powerful tool with a great presentation layer:

  • Availability – it is already on every machine.
  • Freedom – business can build in Excel with not involvement from IT.
  • Flexibility – users can easily change graphs, tables, pivot tables, filters, data analyses, formulas, etc.
  • Convenience – Excel is the tool of choice of accountants and finance professionals and they are used to it.
  • Integration – it is also easy to integrate with other Microsoft Office tools such as Power Point and Word.

Is there something better?

Despite its undeniable benefits, as planning tool Excel has important limitations:

  • It is not a database – Excel holds data in tables in the spreadsheet. Good spreadsheets have well-structured in columns that can be used in data analyses such as pivot tables and filtering. However, columns are not structured dimensions and Excel tables are not databases.
  • No single version of the truth – Excel stores data in the sheet and not in a database. Different copies of a spreadsheet show different results with no single version of the truth; even simple numbers can vary from spreadsheet to spreadsheet. There is no concept of data intersection whereby one intersection can only hold one piece of data and every report pointing to that intersection would display the same number.
  • Not secure – Excel has a very simple security setting based on password locking. It is not possible to configure security in a way to allow users to see only part of the data; hence the need to create multiple interlinked spreadsheets.
  • No hierarchy reporting – it is impossible to build reporting hierarchies in Excel without creating too many columns.
  • Lack of process visibility and control – there is no workflow, work status or change audit functionality in Excel.
  • Does not support concomitant updates of data and formulas
  • Distribution is not straightforward – most spreadsheets are sent as attachments to emails. Even a change in one single figure would require redistribution
  • Data capacity limitation – Excel has a limit to number of rows and columns, and although Microsoft has increased the number of rows and columns significantly, all experienced users know that very large spreadsheets simply don’t run.
  • Importing and exporting data between spreadsheets is fairly easy but sending data to other systems is a lot more complicated.


So, what if there was a solution in the market that could embrace all Excel functionalities but also address its limitations?

At UXLI, we have been transforming Planning (including planning, budgeting, forecasting, financial consolidation, actual versus plan reporting) in large organisations and helping them to improve their Excel-based Planning processes. We implement the most modern cloud-based solutions that enable seamless, robust, flexible and secure Planning platforms. Some of the advantages of cloud-based solutions are:

  • Structured Multi-dimensional Databases – all data is held on Cloud databased, with one single version of the truth – all reports pointing to one intersection would obtain the same result.
  • Process Control – it has a standard workflow functionality whereby group FP&A can manage plan and actual data submissions.
  • Security – Cloud-based solutions are very secure, and their security functionality provides flexibility for controlling access of different user profiles. Your data will be safe.
  • Embraces Excel – our cloud-based systems embrace Excel and all Excel functionalities can be used in conjunction with the Planning application.
  • Flexibility – easy to create input sheets, reports, graphs, new hierarchies, formulas, driverbased models, scenario analyses, etc.
  • Price – no need to invest in heavy machinery or servers.
  • Time – Cloud platform is immediately available and Planning solutions can be delivered in a matter of days – our record implementation is 5 days to create a P&L planning template that was delivered for a global company operating in many countries.
  • Maintenance – cloud-based solutions are maintained and upgraded automatically with no need for re-patching and re-installations. Formulas maintained centrally can be easily rolled out.

If you are ready to move on and to transform Planning in you organisations, and want you want to know more about our Planning capability, please visit our page on

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