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How are EPM solutions better than spreadsheets?

Why Spreadsheets?

Everyone who creates reports, inputs and manipulates data (especially planning data) or does calculations on the data loves spreadsheet solution because they are easy to use and allows for lot of flexibility. Again the other major driving factor is that the business users can themselves manage it and do not have to depend on their IT friends to help them do their job.
Some of the top reasons users want to go with spreadsheets:

• Ease of use
• Minimal training
• Minimal involvement of IT
• Easy authoring of workbooks or reports

Why not spreadsheets?

Though spreadsheets provide the above advantages, the biggest comment against spreadsheet is ‘Considerable individual flexibility without control’. Since decision makers rely on the information available to take critical decisions, having all the flexibility can be very serious problem, if the information provided are not accurate. Also spreadsheets are standalone systems that do not have information on their own and it would be difficult to get data into spreadsheets, without going through several manual steps before bringing the requisite information into spreadsheets, including updated information. The other issues are performance and scalability, when spreadsheets are used for reporting with hundred of thousand of records, data manipulation or performing complex calculations such as top down allocations, massive data copy etc.
So to summarize the following are the issues for going with spreadsheets:

• Lack of control
• Accessibility – Manual process to get information
• Lack of updated information
• Performance
• Scalability – large data volumes, complex calculation logic

Is it easy to move users away from spreadsheets?

Though IT may want to move users away from spreadsheets, it is impossible to move the users away since it is the most flexible and fast tool available for the said needs of reporting and data manipulation. We also have to understand the difference between two types of users – ‘Producers’ and ‘Consumers’. ‘Producers’ are the administrators who create the reports or input sheets to collect information and ‘Consumers’ are the business managers who use the information or input the information. From a recent study both these user community want to use spreadsheets extensively. So it is going to be very difficult to move users away from spreadsheets.

So, what is better than spreadsheets?

Given the conclusion that it is going to be difficult to move users away from spreadsheets, what would be an ideal solution for the above needs? The solutions that offer best of both worlds will be the winner. The solutions should be as flexible and usable as spreadsheets and should overcome the above inherent issues of spreadsheets. EPM solutions are empowered to offer solutions that can take care of both. SAP EPM solutions with the flexibility of spreadsheet like interface and accessibility to underlying SAP ERP data would be the solution that satisfies the needs – and would undoubtedly be better than spreadsheets.

Look out for more blogs on this subject and why you should consider SAP EPM solutions vs. the current tools that you may use……

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  • I’m surprised you didn’t mention lack of documented ‘systems.’ That’s the biggie because it’s the biggest source of error.

    It might also be worthwhile looking at the longitudinal studies by University of Hawaii going back to early 1980s along with the work KPMG has done in this area eg, material errors in 95% of cases. These kinds of thing get people sitting up – especially in the CFOs office.

    • I agree, also avoiding errors is one of the major concerns, and could be taken care by validating some the data that is submitted. Definitely CFO Office like to see error free reports, especially in this post enron, sarbanes oxley era
  • With the today mantra of IT driving the buisness a product that can offer best o fboth the world namely easy of use with controlled access would make a world of difference.I would see the eduaction of the benefits of having a product like CPM to the CFO would one of the critical sucess factors for quick adaption of this product.