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Why glance beyond the spread sheets

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Daily organizations that are keen on growing continue to generate increasing amounts of data – sales, inventory, cost of goods, etc. – but raw data alone is not particularly useful. As a result, such organizations are investing in applications that enable them to make sense of their data to improve decision-making.  These applications come in the form of business intelligence, which enable business professionals to understand what happened in the past, and modeling tools, which enable proactive vis a vis reactive planning. In the past, CFOs have relied on spreadsheets for much of their information needs, but increasingly they are finding that they no longer fit the bill.

One problem is that companies have too many spreadsheets scattered throughout the enterprise. These spreadsheets are, in effect, locking up valuable data. By applying performance management tools, including financial modeling software, they are able to make the connections between these different repositories and generate useful business information.

Business and finance professionals often seek data from numerous sources and about multiple business factors and dimensions. A significant holdup occurs when they must “roll up” data from multiple sources into a comprehensive model that delivers accurate and insightful information.

Accessing useful information is one aspect; the time required to do so is another. Recent surveys conducted among finance professionals point out that the amount of time business professional spend on gathering data and other administrative tasks is staggering: they report spending two thirds of their time on routine tasks, leaving less than one-third of their time available for the insightful analysis that they are hired to deliver

Even though CFOs report that spreadsheets are the most widely used tool for financial planning and analysis, majority still use spreadsheets. Almost all of the CFOs will agree that reducing reliance on spreadsheets was a strategic initiative into the future.  That certainly is a positive attitude, but it must be matched by more than just talk by company executives. In addition to an investment in technology, companies must invest in the training required as well as provide incentives for CFOs who implement newer, more efficient, and better performing tools.

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