What's the most popular reporting and planning tool out there? As much as I'd like the answer to be "arcplan" – it's not. Even in 2011, it's "Excel." Excel has been around for 25 years and believe it or not, it's still the most often used technology in 60% of the organizations surveyed by Ventana Research in August 2011.
There are so many reasons analysts and planners love Excel: it's easy to use, adjusting reports takes seconds, it's the perfect tool for local ad-hoc analysis, and it has an extensive formula and function library to address complex calculations. On the other hand, there are times when Excel falls short. After the manual process of collecting, consolidating and reconciling data, Excel leaves little to no time for actual analysis. And worst of all, you may find that your data is outdated or fraught with errors, which compromises your ability to make business-critical decisions. Unfortunately, Excel also lacks data security, which is a paramount concern for IT professionals.
Truly, I'm not bashing Excel here. I'm a data analyst myself and I help our clients develop Excel-like BI applications, so I understand that Excel has its benefits. Power users are going to want to use Excel, at least for the foreseeable future. So consider this how you can reconcile the use of Excel at your organization. The answer may be as simple as your BI system's Excel add-in!
As a BI professional, I'd probably be surprised by the number of users who have no idea they have an Excel add-in as part of their BI package. Excel add-ins (like our own arcplan Excel Analytics) let you perform analysis in Excel on data that's pulled directly from your BI system. Often, you can work offline and even write-back to the data source while taking advantage of the full security and permissions that have been set up in the BI system. You'll get two thumbs up from IT on this one!
Excel isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so if you're a BI project leader or a member of your organization's BI Competency Center (BICC) who is concerned about data integrity and security, an Excel add-in is a great way to appease spreadsheet-lovers and let yourself sleep at night.
And if you're an Excel users who is finding that spreadsheets aren't the right fit for your analysis or planning scenarios anymore, you may need to take charge of a BI initiative at your company. Here's a free resource that arms you with 8 Ways BI Can Augment Your Reporting and Analysis. Also, take a listen to our recent webinar, Beyond Excel for BI, to see a web-based BI application in a familiar spreadsheet-interface.
It is possible to make BI and Excel work together!