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How Your Business Can Benefit from Excel Alternatives

Updated: Jun 18

How Your Business Can Benefit from Excel Alternatives

More CFOs today rely on FP&A people for faster forecasting, planning, and budgeting. Finance is going through exciting times of change. But, in many companies, FP&A folks and finance managers are stuck with Excel. Excel has been a faithful assistant for years but is slow, boring, and prone to errors. So, finance people are seriously considering switching to a tool that can make you more strategic and automate boring and repetitive tasks. If manual Excel spreadsheets are your pain, you’ll love reading this article to understand Microsoft Excel alternatives for faster planning, budgeting, and forecasting needs.

Introduction to Excel Alternatives in Business

Introduction to Excel Alternatives in Business

We all love Excel, but at some point, you outgrow it. As your business grows, so do its complexities, resulting in a demand for more modern tools.

The Limitations of Excel in Modern Business Planning

Excel is a good tool for individuals. However, in a multi-user environment, it may become difficult and tedious to create forecast/budget templates, share them, collect them, get them into a central database, and use them for reporting purposes. This process could be time-consuming and prone to errors, especially when done manually. Additionally, if you need to run the same process monthly or weekly, Excel may not be the best option. 

Another challenge with Excel is that it can be difficult to get actuals from different systems to automatically populate the first couple of months when the year has started. This task requires manual data entry, which might take a significant amount of time and could also result in errors. 

Therefore, although Excel has been a popular program used in business for many years, it might not be the best option in today's fast-paced and interconnected work environment. Excel alternatives offer enhanced capacities for visual representation and analysis, making them a more appealing option. However, Excel is still a useful tool in certain situations.

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The Growing Need for Advanced Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting Tools

The reality is apparent - newer technologies outperform Excel, and some alternatives offer advanced features and better align with modern  business needs.

For example, according to MIT research, only 20% of analytics insights will deliver business outcomes through 2024. Such statistics advocate a crucial need for refinement in planning, budgeting, and forecasting tools—leveraging data effectively to make informed business strategies.

Modern alternatives to Excel come with various advanced features, such as real-time updates, seamless collaboration, sophisticated visualizations, and automated workflows. These features not only enhance efficiency but also reduce the risk of errors. Gone are the days when Excel was the only data management and analysis option. Newly available tools provide an environment where efficiency soars and errors plummet.

It’s time for a change

Time for an Excel Alternative

Your business may be torn between sticking to traditional Excel sheets and exploring new avenues for planning, budgeting, and forecasting, but how do you know when it's time to break away from the old ways and embrace innovation? Let’s explore.

3 Signs Your Business Must Consider Excel Alternatives

  1. Increased Human Errors: Excel has served businesses well since its inception. However, as business operations become complex with sizable datasets, human errors are causing a surge in inaccuracies.

  2. Collaboration Hurdles: Excel's collaborative scope remains restricted. Maintaining version control is a significant challenge for teams working simultaneously on various sections of an Excel sheet.

  3. Lack of Scalability: Excel becomes limited as businesses expand and datasets grow exponentially. Your company may find itself attempting to fit immense data chunks into its rows and columns, leading to further errors and miscommunication.

If your organization is experiencing any or all of these signs, it is likely time to consider alternatives to Excel for data analysis.

Assess Your Current Planning and Forecasting Processes

Before diving headfirst into changes, taking stock of your existing processes helps build a path forward. It directs what solutions you should look for as an alternative to Excel. By evaluating current workflows—including the frequency of data entry mistakes, collaboration hiccups faced by the team, and assessment of processing speeds given the increasing workload—you can better identify areas where improvements can make the most impact.

Remember what MIT Sloan stated about barriers to becoming a data-driven company? 67% believed organizational culture’s inflexibility toward dynamism is a significant roadblock. If your cultural mindset echoes this sentiment, maybe it's time for a change.

Top 9 Advantages of Getting Away from Excel to Alternatives

Top 9 Advantages of Getting Away from Excel to Alternatives

Deciding to replace a widely used and essential tool like Microsoft Excel can seem overwhelming. We have become so accustomed to its interface and features that tasks like scheduling, charting, and database maintenance feel almost instinctual. However, it's essential to remember that the aim isn't to alter your routine entirely but rather to enhance it with additional resources.

Here are the Real Benefits of Excel Alternatives for Your Business

As you begin your search for an alternative to MS Excel, here are the benefits you should expect from your new choice:

  1. Better Collaboration: Most modern tools offer advanced collaboration features that allow team members to work simultaneously without overriding each other’s work. This promotes efficient teamwork, especially in today’s remote working era.

  2. Increased Automation: New solutions provide automated features that significantly reduce time spent on data entry and repetitive tasks. This translates into improved productivity across various business operations.

  3. Real-time Updates: Storing data in one central database, and all changes are under full audit trail (i.e. possible to understand which user made what changes)  

  4. Data Visualization Abilities: Enable businesses to represent data more engagingly, aiding effective decision-making processes.

  5. Improved User Experience: Simplicity & intuitive design make these alternatives easy to navigate even without prior knowledge or expertise in spreadsheet usage.

  6. Integration Compatibility: It must integrate smoothly with existing systems or software within your business IT ecosystem.

  7. Sophisticated Reporting: Innovation brings excellent data visualization options for quicker interpretation and decision-making based on reports.

  8. Scalability: An expandable solution that grows with your company’s future expansion plans adds immense value.

  9. Security: Robust security features protect critical financial information and sensitive business data.

Transitioning towards advanced planning solutions is necessary and profitable for businesses of any scale. These benefits help to answer why.

How Alternative Solutions Can Transform Your Business Forecasting

It is recommended to avoid using Excel when dealing with planning, budgeting, or forecasting models that require multiple people to update different parts of the model. This is especially true when there are many individuals involved, such as 30 department managers, 50 sales managers, or 35 project managers. By upgrading your approach to forecasting, you not only improve convenience but also open up new opportunities for revolutionizing your business.

Mitigating risk is critical within business contexts—it's where accurate forecasting occurs. With an efficient Excel replacement under your belt, importing & managing vast datasets, analyzing trends, and pinpointing anomalies become easier. Tools with built-in AI capacities are even equipped to provide predictive analytics based on historical data patterns—a critical feature that Excel lacks—thereby enhancing accuracy.

Excel alternatives have revolutionized the process of compiling reports by eliminating the need for manual data entry and copy-and-pasting of data, which is often a tedious and time-consuming task that finance people dislike doing every month. By using these alternatives, finance teams can save valuable time and effort that can be directed toward more strategic initiatives. With these tools, generating reports is now more efficient and accurate than ever before.

Lastly, considering that people spend 60% to 80% of their time merely searching for data—a significant productivity loss—the organization features within Modern tools are advantageous for efficient data management, granting you the luxury of spending more time interpreting insights than scavenging through data piles!

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Implement Strategies for an Easy Transition

Transitioning from Excel to a more advanced planning, budgeting, and forecasting tool should be smooth. On the contrary, this transformation can be executed smoothly through strategic planning and effective implementation.

Do this to Migrate from Excel to a New tool for FP&A

When migrating from Excel to alternative business solutions, certain practices ensure better results:

  1. Audit Current Processes: Before you start implementing the new solution, it's crucial first to thoroughly understand your current processes in Excel. Knowing what works well, where the limitations lie, and what needs improvement is critical in choosing the right tool.

  2. Identify Key Stakeholders: Identify individuals directly impacted by this change and involve them in every transition step. This helps prioritize user requirements while deciding on features and customizations.

  3. Plan for Data Integration: Instead of moving vast amounts of data from Excel sheets into the new system, it is recommended to plan for data integration. In this approach, the planning system is connected directly to the accounting system and other data sources to automate the future process. This could save time and effort while ensuring the accuracy and consistency of data.

  4. Test Extensively: Conduct thorough testing before fully transitioning to the new tool to ensure everything functions as expected.

  5. Develop an Implementation Schedule: Lastly, have a clear timeline detailing when different implementation phases will occur.

Another critical aspect comes after successfully installing these tools in your workflow - adequately training your team.

Upskill Your Teams for Effective Adoption of New Tech Tools

Proper training is vital because even though switching from Excel could prove beneficial, staff could face challenges if they're unfamiliar with running operations on a brand-new platform.

Start by designing intensive initial training programs to provide attendees with comprehensive practical knowledge about operating these systems effectively.

Organizing regular refresher courses for staff is essential, as becoming an expert takes time. Gradually increasing their skill levels can help staff become adept at using these tools optimally.

Consider customizing training modules to cater to staff's varying learning curves. From beginners handling these tools for the first time to advanced users, everyone can benefit from tailor-made instructions that fit their competency levels.

Finally, provide resources and platforms for continuous learning. This could include guides, tutorials, access to online forums, and round-the-clock assistance, where doubts can be clarified instantly.

A well-trained team will then become an asset that uses this powerful toolset effectively to garner immense strategic benefits for your business.

Conclusion: Get away from Excel Hell and hit profitability 

You need foresight, strategy, and adaptability. Your journey involves investing in tools that support and amplify these qualities.

TL;DR - the Benefits of Excel Alternatives

Throughout the piece, we can gather many impressive benefits that alternatives to Excel offer:

  1. Increased Efficiency and Accuracy: Using personalized formulas, algorithms, and machine learning innovations promotes accuracy while reducing arguably unnecessary manual inputs.

  2. Improved Scalability: Advanced planning tools have built-in features designed specifically for growing businesses; thus, they are ideally suited to accommodate expansion with minimal friction.

  3. Enhanced Collaborative Capabilities: These advanced tools promote real-time collaboration across different teams and departments, providing seamless data exchange and consistency.

Aimplan: An Alternative to Excel

One such tool is Aimplan – an innovative financial planning application deliberately created with modern businesses in mind. Aimplan is supercharging the leading BI tool, Microsoft Power BI, to become a planning and forecasting tool. Combined with the market-leading data visualization Power BI delivers, AimPlan takes forecasting accuracy, efficiency, and usability up several notches from traditional spreadsheets like Excel.

Streamline your forecasting with Aimplan

Beyond mere computation and presentation, AimPlan emphasizes interaction, focusing not just on what data says now but enabling a dialogue with data to anticipate what might happen next… Aimplan’s scenario simulation tool is necessary in today's fast-paced business environment. It allows you to analyze various scenarios and make the best decisions for your company. With our tool, you can take control of your business's future and make decisions that will set you up for success.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Business Planning and Forecasting Tools

As finance folks at companies try to find their way in a quickly changing finance world, it is super important to have strong planning, budgeting, and forecasting tools. We're seeing a shift where these tools are turning into smart helpers, not just for crunching numbers but for helping businesses stay ahead by predicting market trends and adjusting plans accordingly. So, moving away from Excel isn't just about trying new tools. It's about joining a movement towards being more strategic, collaborating, and planning for the future in a modern way. Why stick with the old ways? It's time to move on from Excel hell and step into a future where you no longer need to sacrifice your weekends to make your CFO happy because you can generate reports in clicks and focus on growth.



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