“Spreadsheets are and probably always will be a firm favourite amongst users. People are used to using them and they feel safe using them, regardless of the complexities and chaos they cause further up the hierarchy when it comes to assessing and reporting on the company’s standpoint. Low willingness to adopt technologies which are smarter in this regard has been a bugbear for organisations since the need to move from the spreadsheet was first touted. From enterprise resource planning and business intelligence to accounting systems, companies know that getting their employees to change is usually a hard task. Obviously poor adoption impacts on the success and sustainability of any new system. What all of this means is that companies, regardless of the bell-and-whistles solutions they have implemented in the hopes of getting better business insight, still have countless spreadsheets strewn across the business and there’s always a lot of information trapped in them if their users haven’t completely gotten to grips with using the more robust systems.
“But, there’s some good news. Companies can call a truce with the spreadsheet without the business descending into spreadsheet chaos,” says Morgan.
SAP BusinessObjects’ Planning and Consolidation solution, which ASYST Intelligence is now delivering and supporting in Africa, is designed for intuitive use by the business user – and their affection for the spreadsheet – in mind. It features familiar Microsoft Office application interfaces at the frontend with intelligent planning, reporting, forecasting and financial consolidation functionality at the backend.
Users simply access and work on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets as usual. These are linked directly to the central data store and as the data is updated, so are the spreadsheets. The system also includes security features for effectively controlling the level of access certain levels of employees have to spreadsheets and data. So, it eliminates version control problems and helps ensure data integrity and accuracy. SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation has exceptional analysis and reporting capabilities. From a centralised data repository, companies have access to up-to-date actual data from operational systems and planning data, enabling them to get a complete and accurate picture of how the business has performed and how it is expected to perform.
All users have access to information and the ability to generate their own reports without asking from help from the IT department. There are numerous reporting options and users can choose to custom-make their own or use existing templates. “Because users get to use familiar tools they know, trust and feel comfortable with, there’s really a very low learning curve to overcome and so they are productive from day one. Companies also don’t have the headache of enticing adoption in the first place. “At the same time companies have a unified solution for planning, budgeting, forecasting, reporting, and financial consolidation, eliminating the need for multiple applications that require manual integration,” says Morgan.
He says the solution offers a relatively quick fix particularly for financial services concerns grappling with disparate and dispersed accounting datasets, manual consolidations, fragmented budgeting and forecasting processes, and laborious and error-prone reporting processes.
In a recent implementation of SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, a large South Africa-based multinational with over 160 active legal entities spread across five divisions and some 5 000 employees has achieved the ability to see a standard, accurate, up-to-date view of the company at any level despite continued reliance on spreadsheets across the enterprise. The organisation now spends less time gathering and integrating data and has simplified and quickened the process of producing reports and forecasts. The annual budgeting process was decreased from over 7 months down to 3 weeks, the statutory reporting process was reduced from 5 months down to 2, and monthly forecasts, which were regarded as an unattainable pipe-dream, have become an accepted facet of everyday business process. We’ve always said that if people can see the benefit of using a system and they are able to see results fast, they’re more likely to use it. A big plus of SAP BusinessObjects BPC is that it delivers reliable intelligence completely within Excel. If your people know how to use Excel and they’re happy using it, they’ll know how to use this system and be equally pleased to use it.
“If you’d asked two years ago whether it would be possible to deliver actionable business insight from spreadsheets, we’d have said no but with this system we really are seeing a return to basics that equates to a win-win for management and users.”