Business Intelligence

Why It’s Time to Retire Excel For Retail Financial Reporting

Where Excel created dependencies, BI brings instant, remote access, integrity and seamless data integration.


When it comes to the virtues of Excel as an enterprise tool, it’s abundantly clear that the debate that rages on has gone tribal with the advocates and the pitchfork-wielders polarised to opposite extremes.

Do a Google search for ‘why Excel is still relevant’ and you’ll find a cascade of content vouching for Excel’s unending relevance for endless disciplines.

Do a Google search for ‘why Excel is obsolete’ and you’ll find reams of articles calling for its wholesale dismantlement as an enterprise tool.

Excel Isn’t ‘Dead & Buried’. It’s the Walking Dead

Where do we sit on the Excel debate? As the SaaS solutionists behind FinWorx and RetailWorx, there’s no prizes for guessing.

That said, we’re not calling for total Excel eradication, perhaps just a gradual retirement. Not least because Excel for financial reporting presents so much opportunity-cost.

It’s impressive that Excel has managed to lurch on as an 80s zombie relic in an age of Business Intelligence that even smaller businesses are now turning to.

For financial reporting there really is no debate. Just ask Adobe Inc.’s finance chief Mark Garrett who, speaking to the WSJ, committed to cutting out Excel

“I don’t want financial-planning people spending their time importing and exporting and manipulating data, I want them to focus on what the data is telling us.”

And that’s just the problem with Excel. It’s an old dog that does some great tricks so long as you pet it and give it commands.

What it misses is the biggest trick of all—telling you the big-picture insight without you needing to train it.

Discover how you can automate financial reporting
with near real-time data with FinWorx.

Excel doesn’t read the Economist

What happens if interest rates increase? Using Excel for financial forecasting, answering questions like this becomes a constant challenge—and these aren’t the kinds of questions a retail CFO will just let slide.

Without a robust budgeting and forecasting platform, someone’s going to be knee-deep in overtime to find the answers.

Forecasting: Excel doesn’t like making long-term plans

Small businesses with simple operations might get by doing cash flow with Excel. But if you’re a large retail enterprise trying to use Excel to project financial results for new markets or products, then good luck. You might as well ask a fortune teller.

Data Integrity: Excel doesn’t like diversity

According to some reports there are 21 spellings for ‘Gadaffi’. For The New York Times it’s ‘Qadaffi’. For the Wallstreet Journal it’s ‘Gadhafi’.

When different branches of your retail operations create different finance reports with Excel—that then need to be merged to consolidate results—you’ll inevitably encounter terminology and mapping issues that cause skewed results.

Security: Excel doesn’t care who’s looking at it

Without constant intervention from an already-overworked IT department moderating spreadsheet access, Excel lays open to all sorts of data-security holes.

Alignment: Excel relies to heavily on people

Excel is as efficient as the people using it. Imagine you have regional financial reports flowing to head-office. If just one of those reports is delayed or doesn’t arrive, then all other incoming reports are near-worthless until the final report comes in.


Smart Retail Enterprise Will Replace Excel with BI



Excel will live on within desktop machines at the most change-resistant retail enterprise not yet versed in the financial-reporting alternatives around them.

Those in touch with the powerful strategic advantage of making deeper interpretations from financial data will find in Business Intelligence a powerful spyglass for planning and forecasting.

Where Excel created dependencies, retail enterprise will find autonomy. Where there was delay and fragmentation  BI brings instant, remote access, integrity and seamless data integration. Where there was short-sighted speculation, financial planning and forecasting with Business Intelligence brings deep insight, certainty and growth.

Get in touch with our team and discuss finally making overdue plans for Excel retirement. We’ll consult with you on creating your Excel escape plan to FinWorx and RetailWorx.

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