Many planning professionals, whether in finance or line-of-business roles, have a love/hate relationship with their spreadsheets. They love the flexibility and the familiarity of a tool that’s been around for decades. But when they try to use spreadsheets for large-scale planning and performance management, multiple issues arise. Errors creep in when data is keyed in or numbers are cut and pasted from one cell to another. Version control is a nightmare. And when users want to include more participants in the process—a well-established best practice in planning—the process can become cumbersome and unwieldy.
Embrace, don’t replace your spreadsheets
In a recent blog we outlined these and other problems with using spreadsheets for enterprise planning. But we also noted that, those problems notwithstanding, spreadsheets are still useful and popular as an individual productivity tool. So today, we’d like to discuss how the spreadsheet and its familiar interface can be used for complex, large-scale planning environments by leveraging its capabilities within IBM Planning Analytics for Microsoft Excel. If you’re not familiar with this solution, you should know that this convenient add-on enables you to smoothly integrate your Excel spreadsheets with IBM Planning Analytics, the planning, budgeting, forecasting and analysis solution powered by IBM TM1.
It’s a perfect complement—not a replacement—for your spreadsheets. It gives you better scalability, powerful modeling and analytics capabilities, and the ability to share plans easily while maintaining better control. Here’s a quick rundown of how and why IBM Planning Analytics works so well with your Excel spreadsheets.
Functionality to fit your needs
IBM Planning Analytics for Excel lets users take advantage of full Excel functionality and formatting, including graphing and built-in functions. From simple drag and drop creation of reports to highly formatted reports with complex calculations, the solution can be configured to fit your unique business needs. Easier reporting is just a few clicks away.
Valuable business insights could be hiding in plain sight in the rows and columns of your spreadsheets. IBM Planning Analytics for Excel helps reveal those insights and enables users to explore data from IBM TM; and other sources for deeper analysis than is possible with spreadsheets alone.
Better integration and control
Reports created in IBM Planning Analytics for Excel can be easily published in Workspace, the customizable interface of IBM Planning Analytics. This allows web-based collaboration on highly-formatted reports while maintaining better control. Key business logic and calculations are stored in a secure application, where changes are made only by designated administrators and are immediately replicated to all participants, eliminating errors and conflicting data. You can also create an audit trail to identify where and when changes were made and thus avoid the version control issues that lead to arguments over whose numbers are correct.
Ease of adoption
Finally, the familiar, user-friendly environment of the Excel interface eases buy-in for users accustomed to Excel. A product review on G2 Crowd, the peer-to-peer review website put it this way:
“IBM Planning Analytics for Excel is the killer app for finance and accounting users… because finance and accounting professionals love Excel and hate any initiative to pull them out of Excel, no matter how benevolent the cause.”
Users both inside and outside of finance appreciate the fact that the Excel interface lets them stay in their comfort zone, leading to higher adoption rates (and faster ROI) across the organization.
1,000+ planners can’t be wrong
But don’t just take our word for it. The Planning Survey 19, the annual report from the Business Application Research Center (BARC), which is based on “the world’s largest survey of planning software users,” gave IBM Planning Analytics top ranks in user experience. Extolling the solution’s Excel integration, BARC said, “The Planning Analytics Excel front end offers easy-to-use capabilities for creating content (e.g., modeling, templates) in a familiar environment and publishing it to the web.”