Using spreadsheets for FP&A? Don’t fix what's not broken

December 20, 2021

Spreadsheets offer incredible flexibility to support modeling and analysis at the user level. For this reason finance teams everywhere rely on them to support their FP&A processes. 

We know that spreadsheets were not designed to be a corporate system. Corporate systems have a centralized database which enables better performance, process automation, user collaboration and security among other features. Spreadsheets are standalone documents and data is always decentralized. Version control, data governance and user collaboration can be challenging. Integration to your ERP and other systems are also not available with disconnected spreadsheets. 

For decades now vendors that offer traditional planning software have attempted to convince their clients to replace spreadsheets entirely. In practice, it's very difficult to rid your organization of spreadsheets. If you replace your ERP, your users have no choice but to engage with your new system. If you install an FP&A software system, how can you really prevent users who love spreadsheets from using them? 

You don’t. 

For this reason nearly all organizations that deploy a corporate system for FP&A experience a return to spreadsheets. The return of spreadsheets can be a frustrating experience for a CFO who just spent a fortune installing a new software system. 

The traditional planning software was created with the goal of replacing spreadsheets. How do you know you’re dealing with traditional software? If the vendor’s marketing is focused on replacing your spreadsheets, then its traditional software. 

What does modern FP&A software look like? 

Modern FP&A software does not make you choose between the system features you require and the flexibility and familiarity of spreadsheets your users prefer. 

Modern FP&A software has different goals than traditional software. It is designed to amplify the value of spreadsheets instead of replacing them. Modern software will integrate 100% to native spreadsheets. This allows each user to be in FP&A nirvana. They don’t need to waste precious time on training to learn how to navigate proprietary software and they can unleash all their spreadsheet experience to be productive from day one. In summary, modern FP&A software like will add a central database, security, performance, automation and other missing system features of the spreadsheet but will not replace the spreadsheet itself. 

Modern FP&A software does not attempt to add complexity by fixing what’s not broken. Users love the flexibility of the spreadsheet. The user interface and all native features of the spreadsheet are not broken. Why attempt to replace the spreadsheet with an inferior user interface? 

The main issue with the traditional planning software is their poor and rigid user experience. Once users have experienced the ease of use of a spreadsheet, they are easily frustrated by proprietary software that locks them into preconfigured models. These models are often fed to users through poorly spreadsheet-lite grids that pale in comparison with today’s leading spreadsheet software, namely Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel. 

When evaluating options for a new FP&A system don’t buy into the marketing of traditional software vendors that are trying desperately to have you let go of your beloved spreadsheets. 

You can now have the best of both worlds. With you can have the capabilities of an enterprise corporate system with all the flexibility of a native spreadsheet.