In last week’s blog, Say goodbye to spreadsheets (Part 1), we looked at the reason why almost 50% of finance and treasury professionals continue to experience difficulties with cash flow forecasting. An over-reliance on traditional spreadsheeting contributes heavily to these challenges with its opaque construction, vulnerable exposure to human error, and multi-facetted manual input demands.
Readily available and affordable cash forecasting applications have, for those organizations who have embraced the benefits of technology, reduced risk exposure exponentially, facilitated real-time & accurate cash visibility, minimized human resource demand, and liberated finance leaders to take a more strategic role across the business. No-brainer.
Sometimes taking a leap of faith, moving away from the old and onto the new, can be a daunting decision. Historical hang-ups, ranging from less than favorable experiences with legacy systems, pre-conceived assumptions around cost implications, and workflow disruption make it all too easy to decide to ‘leave well enough alone’. Before you take the decision to stick with the spreadsheet that’s done what it apparently ‘says on the tin’ for many years – let’s consider the following:
Back to the future
In a world where cybersecurity is of the utmost concern and data privacy, e.g. GDPR, is a regulatory requirement, can finance and treasury really afford to run their operations on spreadsheets? Spreadsheet security cannot and does not compare to the advantages of specialist systems that have been built with security in mind. Indeed, some spreadsheet applications lack even basic authentication security, can be easily copied and distributed outside the confines of the business without the knowledge or prior agreement of management.
Spreadsheets were built for convenience-only in a pre-internet world where cyber-attacks and data security were unknown and of no consideration. Spreadsheets were not built with security in mind.
Square peg in a round hole
Spreadsheets don’t grow with your treasury and finance needs. Organizations often try to adapt their spreadsheets to a growing business but soon realize that the complexity of doing so is almost impossible. Adding new accounts and deleting old accounts becomes challenging at the best of times, but managing this critical process in a spreadsheet, whilst trying to drive the business forward, is often a step too far, leading to errors and oversights.
Treasury and finance, by their very nature, consist of a number of different individuals performing a variety of activities, sometimes at the same time. This results in the sharing of valuable company information between several people and departments on any one day. Managing this process on spreadsheets can be difficult and nigh on impossible, even if some automation is achieved. Typically, only one person can update a spreadsheet at any one time so the workload that needs to be shared becomes inefficient and confusing. Maintaining full transparency around additions, edits, and alterations are off the table. Once an edit, or error, is made on the spreadsheet, it remains invisible and untraceable until something goes wrong. In addition, identifying the point of error-impact is often a time-consuming, futile, and frustrating exercise for some unfortunate departmental executives, even if they have the necessary investigative skills.
Doomed to repeat the same mistakes
Spreadsheets are not that good at quantifying or qualifying historical data, and treasury & finance needs this data regularly. That is not to say data cannot be stored in earlier spreadsheet versions, but due to the way they work, it is not a simple task to access, view, assess, and report this data as efficiently and effectively as modern cash management applications. Losing valuable historical data for comparison and variance purposes is a high-risk consideration. Accidentally saving over historic files, or indeed losing files altogether, is a terrifying experience we’ve probably all experienced at some stage in our careers. Notifying management of a spreadsheet faux pas is just as bone-chilling, remaining undisclosed and causing further inaccuracy to forecast outputs.
As alluded to in an earlier blog ‘Five expensive myths in Cash Forecasting’, there is a very real chance that the person who created the original spreadsheet has moved on and left the company. How many finance and treasury departments have found themselves in a position where a mega spreadsheet, long lauded as a ‘work of art,’ is no longer sufficiently supported and documented with non-existent instructions on how to maintain or update the worksheet.
Cassette recorders, big hair, leg warmers, the Rubik’s cube, Walkman, and mobile phones the size of small suitcases are all legacies from the 1980's. Technology and hairstyles have moved on…..so should cash forecasting applications.