As the world continues to digitise, finance managers, VP Finance, and CFOs face an imminent decision—to move from Excel-based spreadsheets to a cloud-based system for financial consolidation. In today's digital age, migrating financial consolidation from traditional Excel spreadsheets to the cloud is no longer a luxury; it's a necessity. It’s become increasingly clear that transitioning from traditional spreadsheets to cloud-based solutions for financial consolidation is necessary and provides value to the finance office.
This transformation brings significant benefits such as enhanced data security, improved collaboration, scalability, automation and efficiency, and centralised data management. In this blog post, we’ll look at why it's time for you to migrate your financial consolidation process from Excel-based spreadsheets to cloud technology and explore how doing so can contribute significantly towards achieving more accurate and efficient financial consolidation.
Before we delve into the best practices, let's understand the pain points of finance managers, accounting managers, and reporting analysts. These professionals grapple with issues like accuracy and compliance, timely reporting, process improvement, audit preparation, and staff training. Furthermore, they need help with data management, resource constraints, and communication.
Navigating through these complexities while complying with diverse accounting policies and managing changes in ownership structure can be daunting. This is where an upgrade from Excel to the cloud comes in handy. Also, one of the primary reasons for the increased emphasis on cloud-based solutions is their ability to boost collaboration, accountability and efficiency in the financial consolidation process.
These platforms eliminate tedious manual tasks associated with Excel spreadsheets, such as data entry, file sharing, version control, reconciliations, and currency conversions, reducing errors and saving time.
Additionally, as a business grows, entities increase across geographies. This adds new tasks and more work to be done while consolidating. In such scenarios, cloud-based consolidation can scale to meet the requirements without significant hardware or infrastructure upgrades. This adaptability is particularly beneficial for rapidly expanding businesses. We know all the challenges organisations face when relying solely on Excel for financial consolidation.
We have also seen how these challenges can be overcome while still using the Excel interface. Therefore, from the above information and the two blogs on the use of Excel for consolidation, it is clear that using the cloud for financial consolidation along with the Excel interface is the best solution to go ahead with.
As more and more finance leaders and CFOs begin to realise the benefits of financial consolidation through the cloud, they face a new challenge: how do they identify the best vendors to help them make this migration? The decision of which vendor to trust can be daunting, as not all solutions are created equal. With so many options available, it's important to carefully consider your organisation's needs and research each option thoroughly before making a decision.
The first step towards successful migration is understanding your objectives and requirements. What do you hope to achieve with the upgrade? You may want to improve data security or enhance collaboration among teams. Whatever your goals, clearly defining them will guide your migration strategy.
In the latest BPM Pulse Survey, 385 finance leaders across ten different industries and varied geographies have picked the following as their top priority while looking for a new consolidation solution.
The top priority is ‘Ease of Use’. By ease of use, the finance leaders mean a familiar interface, no coding, detailed guided workflows, intuitive, minimal training, and financial self-sufficiency. Financial self-sufficiency means the finance & accounting teams have complete control over the financial consolidation process, with zero or little dependence on technical teams. This is one of the top priorities, scoring 4.09 out of 5.
Another interesting point in the top 10 priorities is a database with plans. Having the consolidation solution share a database with the planning solutions means that duplication of steps can be removed, and a single source of truth can be used for planning and closing. The cloud platform for financial consolidation provides automation of account reconciliation, intercompany matching, etc., that can easily be auditable too. Thus eliminating the problem of duplication of efforts and storage space for another separate database for consolidation.
These are a few parameters and thoughts for finance leaders to remember before purchasing cloud-based financial consolidation solutions. These are just a starting point. The finance teams must thoroughly analyse their organisation, subsidiaries, geographies, legal impact, etc., while defining their goals/expectations.
Once the key expectations are clear, the next step is identifying the vendors in the financial consolidation space. Not all cloud solutions are created equal. Therefore, it's crucial to evaluate different offerings in the market. There are many modern and legacy solutions. The buyer must evaluate the solutions based on the expectations/goals defined.
The legacy solutions will generally be on-premise, non-cloud solutions. These can be ignored right away. There are a few on-cloud solutions, but they may not be desirable due to the high total costs of ownership, disjoint EPM experience ( caters only to consolidation, not planning ), too much dependence on technical teams, non-intuitive user interface, very high training costs, etc.
The finance manager must look for modern solutions that fulfil all their consolidation requirements like ease of use, finance ownership, sharing database with planning, scalability, unified systems, streamlined processes and reduced cycle times. While all of these will be considered, finance teams must also consider the most important aspect, i.e., whether the solution is within budget.
From the leadership point of view, the solution should be within the budget and give accurate results. From the finance team's point of view, the solution should be intuitive, scalable, unified, and streamlined, and it should reduce cycle times with minimum training.
Although cloud-based consolidation solutions indeed have to be the priority for finance managers, it is still important to recognise Excel. The best approach is to use cloud-based solutions that support Excel usage. This can be attested to by the BPM Pulse Survey 2023 findings, which reveal that 80% of the respondents continue to use spreadsheets even after purchasing new performance management solutions.
The below matrix can guide finance managers in making the right purchase decision.
The market has many financial consolidation solutions. Broadly, we can categorise them into four types:
These solutions seem attractive at first due to the low costs. These solutions do not have any high acquisition costs. Most businesses can afford to purchase such software. Also, the training costs are minimal thanks to the familiar and user-friendly interface.
While this is very promising, the finance manager must consider the user's needs. These solutions provide limited collaboration capabilities. For financial consolidation, many users from different finance teams across different entities and geographies must collaborate to consolidate the accounts. With these solutions, this becomes very difficult and creates communication gaps.
The sheer size of the data being handled can cause errors since the data is being handled manually. The lack of automation can cost the business severely in the future in case of any inaccuracy in the consolidation.
Therefore, the finance teams need more automation, scalability and collaboration to proceed with these solutions.
The next category of solutions is legacy solutions. While these were the go-to solutions in yesteryear, the solutions may need to be more agile to meet the modern needs of the finance team. These solutions have a very complex interface. This increases their dependency on technical teams, increasing the time for consolidation.
Apart from that, the licensing costs are very high. The complex interface also calls for intensive employee training, resulting in high costs again. Hence, these solutions differ from what modern finance teams look for due to their high costs and outdated capabilities.
Other EPM solutions
The third category of solutions is the common cloud-based EPM solutions. While these solutions may have the required capabilities like agility, low code, etc., most have high migration and change request costs. When a customer would like to make any changes to their plan, they will incur additional costs. In some cases, they have to consult a third-party consultant. This calls for additional costs. Also, in most cases, such scenarios demand much time from the company's finance and technical teams to make the changes. This makes these solutions less attractive.
The next category of solutions is the ones that fulfil the needs of the finance teams and come at relatively low costs for the business. One such enterprise-grade solution is JustPerform. The solution offers extremely low upgrade costs. Also, the intuitive and user-friendly interface calls for very minimal training costs.
The change request costs are also very low, making the total ownership cost considerably lower than any other solution in the market. These solutions offer unique features, such as inbuilt modules and templates, for accurate and efficient consolidation.
Once the finance manager has identified the best-fit vendor for financial consolidation, the finance manager must consider other aspects like data integration and migration from Excel to the cloud-based financial consolidation solution.
Data is the lifeblood of financial consolidation. Therefore, planning how the team shall migrate and integrate the data into the new financial consolidation solution is important. The finance team needs to ensure that the chosen solution can handle the volume and complexity of the financial data from different entities and currency denominations. Any need to upgrade to a new solution demands more time and taxes the finance team.
The finance manager must look for solutions that allow automatic data migration into the new solution. This avoids any scope for error. Companies may have to integrate financial data from different sources into the consolidation solution. This option, too, should be available. This saves time and reduces errors as compared to doing this process manually.
JustPerform’s Excel connector helps automate consolidation data migration from the local Excel files to the financial close cloud. It also supports over 80 different data sources, making data integration easy.
Migration is often considered a mere lift and shift of all transaction data, master data, and reports. However, there may be more effective options than a simple lift and data shift from Excel to the new solution. Finance managers must opt for those solutions that enable the user to improve the processes before deployment.
The finance teams will benefit immensely from the solution that offers complete automation of the migration process, with little to zero dependence on the technical team. These solutions need to be scalable.
Finance leaders and CFOs are transitioning from Excel-based spreadsheets to cloud-based financial consolidation solutions for better data security, improved collaboration between finance teams, scalability, automation of complex processes like currency conversions, etc., and accuracy of reports.
The first step is defining objectives and requirements. Ease of use, such as a familiar interface, no coding, detailed guided workflows, intuitive user interface, minimal training and financial self-sufficiency, are important priorities that finance teams need to consider.
Next, evaluating different solutions on the market is essential to find the right one with budget considerations in mind. Modern solutions that provide ease of use, finance ownership, sharing the database with planning, scalability, unified systems, the low total cost of ownership, etc., should be considered.
Data migration and integration should be conducted efficiently by selecting a vendor that supports cleaning existing processes before migrating and can accommodate future growth needs. Solutions that offer complete automation of the process and scalability at a low cost are the best choice.
Industry best practices suggest that a world-class close can be defined as a three-day close for legal entities plus two days for consolidation and reporting, totalling five days. Yet 62% of companies still need to achieve this. Growing business complexities and increased regulatory requirements delaying your close? It’s time to speed up with JustPerform.
Finance leaders and CFOs are transitioning from Excel-based spreadsheets to cloud-based financial consolidation solutions to benefit from enhanced data security, improved collaboration, scalability, automation of complex processes, and accurate reports.
The first step is to define objectives and requirements, such as ease of use, finance ownership, unified systems, and a low total cost of ownership.
Next is to evaluate cloud solutions on the market that meet the established criteria and take budget considerations into account.
Finally, finance leaders need to consider a vendor that supports cleaning existing processes before migrating and can accommodate future growth needs at an optimum cost.
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