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You Might Be in Excel Hell If...

Posted by
David Den Boer
David Den Boer
on Wed, May 23, 2012 @ 05:05 AM
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There’s a lot of hype about Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) these days, and its time to clear up some common misconceptions. The most common disconnect I see is that companies buy an EPM solution to replace Excel, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, that is often all the inspiration they can muster when implementing…a decidedly bad thing.

The list of symptoms suffered when relying on Excel as an enterprise system is a long and well-known one. “Excel Hell” is where you find yourself when you have abused Excel for too long. With my apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, here are the most common symptoms:

  • If you use Excel as your plan or consolidation database…you might be in Excel Hell. Excel is a lot of things, but it is not a reliable data storage platform. If your spreadsheet file sizes exceed 5mb, you should be concerned. If they're over 10mb, it's not a matter of if the system will blow up on you, it's when.
  • If you have created a spider web of linked workbooks to avoid the data limitations in any one workbook…you might be in Excel Hell. Linked workbooks work out great if you have two workbooks that will never change. Start adding rows, and it’s a one-way trip to the fiery pits of spreadsheet disaster.
  • If you create VBA macros that only one person in your company understands…you might be in Excel Hell. Sure, they work great—at first. But with the accumulation of data, changing requirements, and potential for that critical employee to leave, you’re putting a lot of eggs in one basket. If you have a workbook with someone’s name on it—“the Jones Workbook”—you better sleep with one eye open.
  • If you have international users…you might be in Excel Hell. Perhaps you have learned how number conventions on international operating systems can cause disconnects in formulae at the least convenient time. Commas and decimals can be reversed for certain desktop configurations, which can cause serious problems with functions, VBA modules and the like. How do you say, “Oh no!” in French?
  • If you have successfully distributed hundreds of data collection workbooks to your users, only to discover you need to add a row to every workbook to collect a new line item…you just might be in Excel Hell. Changing things is easy in Excel—unless you have a huge number of users and a manual process. You’ll be working on the chain gang getting those workbooks edited for the next week. Start praying that there will be no further changes coming.
  • If you need to add another month of actual data to your many reports…you might be in Excel Hell. Rough seas ahead, Captain Cut ’n’ Paste! Keep telling yourself you’re glad you went to college for this stuff.

Sure, the Excel interface is intuitive, but what's truly hazardous is the influence it can have on your process.

One of the key factors that pushes Excel to the breaking point is the volume of data you try to push through it. Storing tens of thousands of rows of data in Excel is a bad idea, plain and simple—yet many companies find themselves stuck with this condition. What starts out as a stop-gap measure done in Excel for convenience soon becomes the "enterprise standard." That’s when the problems start. Data volumes pick up, workbooks breed like rabbits…and soon you find the temperature rising and the Devil's pitchfork poking at your posterior.

Related Articles: 

Replace a Working Spreadsheet Based Forecasting Model with SAP BPC?

BPC Heaven vs. Excel Hell

5 Overlooked Features of BPC

11 Dirty Secrets of EPM Projects

7 Deadly Sins of a BPC Implementation 

Webcast: Latest SAP EPM Roadmap

Interested in learning more about the planned innovations and future direction that SAP has up their sleeves? Join Column5 and SAP’s Pras Chatterjee for an informative discussion on the updated roadmap for BPC and EPM including BusinessObjects Cloud.

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Topics: Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), Business Intelligence (BI), Performance, Implementation, Data


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