Way back in 2009 while I was working in the EPM practice at SAP I routinely cited a Gartner survey stating that 70% of organizations still relied on spreadsheets for their budgeting, planning and forecasting processes when speaking with customers or at events. Fast forward four years to 2013 and amazingly a new Aberdeen study found that a whopping 89% of organizations use spreadsheets for these processes! What gives? We've all heard over and over about the pitfalls of using spreadsheets for these processes, often referred to as “Excel Hell”. The bottom line is that business users love spreadsheets for their ease of use and flexibility. So how do we let business users continue to use their tool of choice AND have the qualities of a planning system such as security, workflow, common formulas and logic, a single source of data, multi-dimensional analysis, etc.?
It turns out that the founders of OutlookSoft – which went on to become SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) when OutlookSoft was acquired by SAP in 2007 - were on to something when they embraced the spreadsheet and built an application around it. They didn’t try to recreate the Excel experience; they leveraged it as the platform upon which the user experience was built. Today that user interface is the frontend not only to BPC but also for the other solutions in SAP’s Enterprise Performance Management portfolio. To be clear, BPC’s Excel interface (I should also mention that there are user interfaces for Microsoft Word and PowerPoint as well) is not a static, single user tool to which you are extracting data. Think of it as a window into the database; the data doesn’t reside in the spreadsheet it is stored in the database so that each time a report is opened the latest data is pulled from the database. The list of advantages to using a purpose built application instead of native Excel for budgeting, planning and forecasting is quite lengthy and there are many companies out there that offer solutions that solve for the inherent issues with using spreadsheets, none however, have done it as successfully as SAP’s Business Planning and Consolidation.
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