Why SMBs Can (And Should) Still Use Spreadsheets

The Cloud has changed much when it comes to the way SMEs do business, and that extends to accounting processes.  Don Mal, CEO of Vena Solutions, knows entrepreneurs love spreadsheets, and today, the cloud and its ability to give firms granular and real-time insight into finances means there’s a way to upgrade spreadsheets into the sophisticated tool SMBs need. Mal explains how.

Reaction to changes in an enterprise’s operating environment is only as swift as the people making decisions. And the people making decisions – whether reacting to a new compliance mandate or a sharp boost in demand for a product – can only be effective when they have the right data in hand, itself determined by the technology that feeds them that data.

To that end, Vena Solutions, a cloud-based corporate management software provider, and FinancialForce, a cloud ERP vendor on the Salesforce platform, said they had formed a partnership to underpin and support a range of accounting and finance needs, ranging from general ledger entry to planning and analysis.  That broad range of activity can be accessed, monitored and contoured with mobile devices.

Vena runs its software across Microsoft Excel, which is among the most widely used tools in the corporate arsenal.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Don Mal, Vena’s chief executive officer, said firms of all stripes and sizes, but particularly those seeking growth, including SMEs, and at least some automation functions (especially back-office ones) to boost productivity can find that separate systems do not dovetail well when it comes to planning and accounting.  The broader trend is one that is moving from the manual to the automated.

In this case, a continuum of analysis via the cloud, and across ERP and Excel “shows the variance between financial planning and how you actually did do.”  In other words, planning becomes an interactive process, a fluid one, and one that is not based as it has been in the past solely on annual targets.

Managing corporate performance, said Mal, has a number of different moving parts.  “Revenue is the most difficult to forecast. Expenses have some ability to be managed,” he said, and can be variable at times, of course.  But “there is variance on both sides of that equation.”

For smaller firms, he continued, it is important to look at the regulatory environment and issues that can be tied to revenue recognition, especially in relationships with vendors and customers and especially across cross-border relationships.  “Technology allows companies to stay above” and stay current with compliance and regulatory mandates as they become part of the day-to-day operating landscape, he said. And, one of the advantages of the cloud, especially for business relationships that rely on compliance efforts to run smoothly, comes in tandem with automatic updates, which can respond to changes in the business environment with speed.

In discussing why Excel is a good tool to use in forecasting and business planning, rather than replacing the spreadsheet function, Mal said that it is still used by an overwhelming number of businesses. The firm has pointed to a BPM Partners survey from this year that shows 84 percent of finance professionals still use spreadsheets to supplement their core ERP systems.

When it comes to Excel, said Mal, executives “know it, love it and do it” constantly, so it makes sense to work with a series of ad-ins and layers of functionality that integrate with the native program.  The end result is to think of the cloud (and the relationship between Vena and FinancialForce) as promoting a convergence between business intelligence and financial planning.  In an environment where 65 percent of companies close their accounts manually, automated reconciliation, Vena has found, can reduce process time by 25 percent, while improving accuracy and saving costs.