Building a Convincing Business Case to Replace Record to Report Spreadsheets
Excel and spreadsheets are great tools and oftentimes the backbone of many organization’s Offices of Finance and Accounting, and have been for decades. Whether it’s for financial, analytical and/or operation processes, companies have looked to those spreadsheets for answers.
But in today’s modern business world and in companies dealing with complex and high-value balance sheets – sometimes across different currencies, reporting regulations and more – it’s dangerous to rely too heavily on spreadsheets. The tool was never designed to be the best method of many of your financial processes, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Error prone and highly dependent on human actions, a lot of major issues can – and do – arise from relying too heavily on spreadsheets. Misstatements, missing reporting deadlines and more – there’s no shortage of potential consequences that can begin with mistakes made in a complicated Excel spreadsheets. With all that in mind, it’s nice to know there are automated and RPA-enabled solutions available that eliminate risk, boost efficiency and guarantee accuracy. But the challenge is, how do you convince your CFO that changes need to be made to your current processes?
The first goal you should set is to make the company realize that there is an issue to address in the first place. Highlight the dangers and difficulties you face in your complicated spreadsheets, and the potentially costly consequences that go along with that. One of our customers communicated the need for a financial transformation in a remarkably simple way. They went to their board of directors and commented, “We are currently managing a $52 billion balance sheet in Excel.” This seemingly obvious statement served to grab the attention of the board and set the company down the path to making a change. From there, it’s a matter of focusing on what is strategically important for your company and building arguments around those criteria. Just a few of the multitude of advantages your company will gain by moving to an automated solution from spreadsheets include:
• Increased productivity with fewer resources: Through automation, certain manual processes that could take your organization hours to accomplish happen instantly. Furthermore, automating balance sheet reconciliation and verification enables you to flatten the workload and spread it out more evenly throughout your close cycle. Work is focused on exceptions and more strategic analysis.
• Reduced risks through complete accuracy in the data: Through utilizing solutions with capabilities such as Risk Intelligent Robotic Process Automation, not only do you eliminate the potential for human error – and there is lots of potential for human error – but you also have certainty that what your company signs off on at the end of the close is 100% accurate.
• A stronger control framework: Through implementing a financial solution you’ll have access to workflows, consoles and audit trails that provide a risk based framework, ensuring all controls are properly identified, scoped, scheduled and performed. You’ll also gain much more visibility into your financial close process, from end to end, so you know exactly what happened, who did it, when they did it and what comes next.
Take for example the case of a global communications technology provider, who saw all of these benefits realized and more. Their initial, pre-automation goal was to get their time to close right while utilizing sophisticated spreadsheets. After hours of dedicated work, they thought they’d closed their books. Instead, they came to discover that even with all their hard work and despite the level of sophistication of their spreadsheets, they still found issues 30 days later. They recognized they lacked visibility into the process and controls.
After undergoing a financial transformation and automating their complex systems, though, they gained the insight and visibility into their processes and discovered exactly where and why the misstatements were happening. By correcting the regional issues and strengthening the control framework, they achieved the same workload with fewer resources, eliminated the risk of restatements and delivered a true reflection of their time to close.
With all this in mind, it’s time to have the conversation in your Office of Finance of breaking up with spreadsheets and saying hello to Risk Intelligent Robotic Process Automation.
Written by: Sam King