The GURUS’ Guide to Spreadsheets

By: Victoria Sapsford

 

Over thirty years ago, Geoffrey Moore published his groundbreaking work “Crossing the Chasm” which described the difficult challenge in winning over the everyday customer’s adoption of new technology (“Early Majority”).

Here we sit in 2022 and the majority of leading-edge businesses running in the Cloud with enterprise solutions like NetSuite ERP, still have not crossed the chasm from financial spreadsheets to better financial planning and budgeting technology.

Although it's true spreadsheets have come a long way in the last 40 years with improved Cloud capabilities and enhanced features, at their core, customers still face many of the same challenges they always have.

The fact is, despite these shortcomings, finance folks have not given up their love-hate relationship with spreadsheets.

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Financial analysis in spreadsheets is here to stay

For FP&A professionals, spreadsheets for budgeting and planning have become the go-to solution in building, analyzing, and sharing financial budgets and plans driving the businesses they serve.

Although most organizations focus primarily on the sum of annual budgets and monthly financial processing, many businesses require the flexibility to perform quarterly re-forecasting, weekly sales reporting and other financial operations which necessitate highly adaptable tools to accommodate the unique finance needs of their business.

Consequently, with 93% of finance teams still working with spreadsheets, the pioneering “Killer App” still dominates the FP&A world providing unlimited flexibility and possibilities to dig into the details driving financial decisions.

Is it possible to move beyond spreadsheets?

Although spreadsheets deliver an ideal platform to support the art of budgeting, forecasting and analyzing financial data, with flexibility comes the trappings of data integrity and security.

The wrong formula, corrupted data, a misplaced decimal point, and poor permissions can all result in many expensive hours of valuable effort to fix these unfortunate common problems plaguing a company’s financial spreadsheets.

That being said, although NetSuite planning and budgeting software can offer a better controlled platform for your finance team, these solutions do come at a premium and may limit the flexibility necessary to adapt to your unique business needs.

Moreover, for smaller organizations that lack both resources and processes, spreadsheets dominate their world providing the best bang for their buck in financial analysis.

Solving ERP data challenges can make all the difference

For finance professionals married to their spreadsheets, one of the biggest challenges they face is the effective capturing of Actuals locked in their Accounting and ERP systems.

Accurately pulling from their GL the posted revenues and expenses driving budgeting and forecasting data is a painstakingly manually-intensive and tedious task prone to errors.

Historical data is key to financial planning and analysis, and for the FP&A team the quality of their work is highly dependent on the data input from these critical financial systems.

Create synergies between NetSuite and spreadsheets

 

For those on NetSuite ERP, exporting Actuals to a spreadsheet can be accomplished via CSV extracts from customized Saved Searches.

It’s not uncommon for NetSuite FP&A users to adopt a “swivel chair” strategy, regularly copying and pasting CSV data into a master budgeting and forecasting spreadsheet. Shared with the finance and sales teams, this often leads to their valuable spreadsheets failing at the most inconvenient times.

Fortunately, there are spreadsheet plugins and solutions that alleviate this issue by delivering automated synchronization with NetSuite. That being said, a more controlled integration between NetSuite and spreadsheets can deliver great value to a finance team ensuring they’re getting the most accurate data from their ERP system critical to their financial analysis.

NetSuite customers can improve their financial spreadsheets by considering the following strategies:

Leverage Saved Searches for export

In an ideal world it is best to capture all raw data sets in a single search to easily extract and copy into a master financial planning spreadsheet.

Minimizing searches and capturing raw data will ensure an easier feeding of NetSuite actuals. In many cases, multiple saves searches will need to be generated to extract all the required data due to the limitations of joining tables.

Fortunately, there are NetSuite budgeting applications in the marketplace that can facilitate this process.

 

Build a cadence strategy to synchronize data

Implementing a set schedule, the finance team should adhere to updating the spreadsheet data from external systems to ensure consistency, data integrity and accurate versioning.

This process can be achieved manually by the designated owners of the spreadsheet, or even better, automatically via a NetSuite solution that can synchronize data more consistently and frequently.

Standardize spreadsheet templates

The development of financial budgeting, planning and forecasting spreadsheets can go in a million directions. Sitting down with the team and defining the goals, design, and audience are as important as the data itself.

It’s important to consider external data sources as part of this design that will heavily impact the usability and performance of the spreadsheet.

Clarify formulas where possible

One of the biggest culprits in a corrupted spreadsheet can be formulas and Macros. As a best practice, simplify formula creation and document their use and changes.

Moreover, raw data from NetSuite will minimize the complexity of formula management from the separate systems feeding financial budgets, plans and forecasts.

Implement Cloud-based spreadsheets for collaboration

One of the advantages of a Cloud-based solution is the ability to optimize permissions, sharing, and versioning of data.

A Cloud-based spreadsheet, such as Google Sheets, can be an excellent solution for financial analysis providing a more controlled environment to share information across your teams.

To learn more about GURUS Solutions and how many organizations integrate NetSuite ERP with their financial planning, budgeting and forecasting spreadsheets, check out the GURUS Data Exporter product page.

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About Victoria Sapsford

Victoria Sapsford is a self-described wordsmith, on a mission to discover the meaning of life through words. She’s also the current Marketing Specialist at GURUS Solutions, where she spends her days strategizing marketing campaigns and writing content about tech, ERP, and everything in between.

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