How Spreadsheets are Causing Your Fiscal Frustration

Topics: Finance, Analytics

In the Wall Street Journal article, “Stop Using Excel, Finance Chiefs Tell Staffs,” Tatyana Shumsky reports that Adobe CFO, Mark Garrett, has cracked down on the antiquated notion of using spreadsheets to manage data. You may be wondering what this tale of Adobe has to do with consumer goods, but in fact, the example set by Garrett is one that has the potential to revolutionize the accuracy and effectiveness of trade promotions and its data.

According to Garrett, “I don’t want financial planning people spending their time importing and exporting and manipulating data, I want them to focus on what is the data telling us.” For CPG company leaders, this may strike a chord because, historically, trade data has been compiled and managed in spreadsheets, which leads to redundancies, errors and wasted time. Essentially, Excel spreadsheets cannot keep up with contemporary data influx because it is disconnected from other data sets and requires significant manual effort to update. Additionally, it presents a huge roadblock to cross-departmental collaborative communication.pexels-photo-133021-large.jpeg

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. New cloud-based systems make it easy for a seamless integration of Trade Promotion Management systems with advanced analytics, such as Trade Promotion Optimization solutions. This means that data is compiled, reported and analyzed in one platform, thus eliminating redundancies and error and opening the door for collaboration based on one view of the truth. It allows financial planning teams to do what Garrett visualizes and spend more of their time analyzing the data, enabling them to make more intelligent recommendations on how to meet company revenue/volume/profit objectives.

"Excel spreadsheets cannot keep up with contemporary data influx."

Furthermore, all of this is done in less time, meaning that results are realized quicker, allowing finance teams to report back to CFOs quickly and confidently. Of course, having increased accuracy and more time to spend analyzing the results of promotions means that future planning is more accurate, resulting in volume and profit increases.

There is one roadblock to achieving this level of analytical success, though. That roadblock is that many CPG finance professionals have a strong connection to their spreadsheets and may be reluctant to move away from them. These spreadsheets are often filled with custom macros and intricate formulas that many people have personally created. This is why it’s important to approach cloud-based systems in a way that shows finance professionals that they can view the same information on their spreadsheets, but in a faster, more accurate and more organized way. On top of this, the empowerment to use these insights to impact and optimize trade promotion ROI gives an even more meaningful ability to make a difference than was possible with spreadsheets.

With this in mind, it’s important that a CFO be the champion of new data initiatives, taking on a supportive role to encourage employees to think differently and adapt to new processes. Successful implementation and adaption means that a company puts themselves at the forefront of the competition as an innovative leader.

What to read next: Financial Leadership in the Age of Analytics

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