Excel is Dead!

Lance (83kg 6 ft) v Chris (110 kg 6 ft 2)

South Africa vs England

Wing/Flank vs Lock/8th man

Speed vs Power

Modeler vs Analyst

If you haven’t heard of the outry for the death of Excel then you must be living under a rock.

This highly emotive topic has gained a lot of high profile media attention, fake news and even changed the views of many finance professionals all the way up to the C-suite and Wall Street.

It’s so dramatic this shift in sentiment that it’s almost hard to tell who is actually right or wrong and what to do next in Finance Transformation.

There are very compelling arguments for and against.

So rather than debate it online we are going head to head in a gloves off session.

In the “Excel is Dead” corner

Chris Argent

  • BI and Analytics Strategy Manager, Group Finance, Vodafone
  • Founder of Linked Group, Generation CFO
  • Advisory Board Member, Future of Finance and CFO Summit, IQPC

Years of experience (25 yrs)

17 years in core finance; 5 years as divisional CFO

8 years in Finance Transformation; 4 years as Finance BI and Analytics Lead

Worked in start up, SME and innovative driven enterprise; including Amazon and Vodafone.

LinkedIn status

5,474 Linked followers

10,206 views on last Linkedin post

67, 200 members on Generation CFO LI Group (Owner, moderator)

Opening argument

MS Excel is a ball and chain around your finance team necks which stops them from thinking and working differently. It stops them improving data flows and process, stops automation savings, stops data management benefits and stops the “big picture prize” of whole company predictive analytics and storytelling which is the future of finance.

3 facts for the death of Excel

Yesterday’s News — Excel’s only strength is its ubiquity. Everyone has access, everyone knows it, but it has significant limitations. There are many new kids, adults, robots on the block!

Manipulating Madness — Wanting your job to improve, but doing the same thing over and over will simply lead to madness, you need to change. Excel is an enabler of this madness as it ties you up in poor process and keeps you from new ways of working.

Data Dunce — Excel is like the locked down iPad in the corner of the local bank branch. Whilst it sits on powerful hardware, its use is restricted due to the fear “someone may break it”, consequently its data remains limited and unexploited.

3 facts against for Excel staying alive

The future is Data, not tools. Finance must own business data, not just GL, but all data, to ensure they can exploit it it (see above). Data is the priority, not which tools you use.

The future is here — You may not be behind today, but very soon Analytics will drive finance and business conversations and finance need to close the gap, and not with Excel.

The future is really here — A world driven by Analytics will mean a role change for finance. They will be whole company data interpreters and storytellers will a new set of skills.

In the “Excel is Alive” corner

Lance Rubin

Years of experience (22 years)

9 years FS Banking Assurance — PwC

4 years Investment Banking and CFO of Property Private Equity — Investec Bank

7 years Finance Business Partner and FP&A leader — National Australia Bank

2 years Cashflow Financial Modeler 💰 Finance Innovator 💡 SME Finance Business Partner ✈️ Speaker and Trainer 🎓

LinkedIn status

6,542 LinkedIn followers

1,865 current 90 day profile views

LI Goup manager for FPA Club (5,500 members)

Opening argument

Excel will continue to be used by Wall Street, ASX, LSE, JSE stock market particpants (Investment Banks and advisors) to do deals via M&A activity, valuations by equity analysts etc.

Believe it or not, banks and Government Treasury departments still use Excel in some form to trade and price derivatives and other financial instruments (especially exotic or bespoke) in the front office using spreadsheets.

This will never change.

So if the big end of town recognises the valuable insight and decision making power of Excel to do real life deals modeling, why should we get rid of it?

It also comes native with poweful modeling and randomisation functionality not to mention statistical functionality too.

There just isn’t anything like it on the planet. The only thing it cant make is a cup of coffee but you can build pretty much build or do anything else ie CRM system, pricing tools, games, draw pictures, take minutes of a meeting, note taking and many many more.

3 facts for Excel staying alive

  • Ease of use — It’s the quintessential business tool for communicating numbers. Everyone knows how to use it and despite the varying levels of competency every working person has used it at sometime or another. Excel dying is like saying we should abandon the English language to communicate.
  • Becoming more powerful- Excel is getting more and more powerful as time goes on. With the increased use of powerful add-ins and functions like Power Query and Power Pivot, more advanced dashboards and larger file size stability with formats like .xlsb it’s only a matter of time that it becomes even more embedded as a BI tool connected to other programs. It’s still the most used platform in the world for FP&A and will remain so for a long time to come.
  • Excel is cheap - It’s even cheaper than a cup of coffee a day and is still referred to as the Swiss army knife of business tools given it’s versatility. You can even build a snakes and ladders game using Excel. Just take a look at a past Modeloff question and you can find it.

3 facts against the Death of Excel

  • Nothing comes close - The nearest competition to Excel might be Google Sheets but really doesn’t allow for any custom built applications embedded within in. Certainly no VBA. PowerBI and other more structured BI tools require time to learn. When most people don’t know even a fraction of what Excel can do, why bother switching programs when there is still so much to learn in Excel and no other system comes close to its flexibility and ease of use.
  • Inertia of change is huge- the ability to change Finance is difficult. We can still achieve change with baby steps using Excel’s improvements but launching into new domains is a bit too much. Change is an evolution not a revolution so why abandon something that’s worked for us for decades and succumb to bullshit marketing tactics. We are smarter than that.
  • Big Cost small benefit - new wave of BI Tools are not cheap to implement and use. Not just the applications themselves, but the time and cost of training, designing and maintaining the systems are significant. When enhanced features and benefits are on our doorstep within Excel why go to a more expensive option..just doesnt make sense…upskill people to use it better. Its not the spreadsheet that is the problem but the people that use it. Cars kill people, should we stop driving as well and all walk or ride bikes?

What do you think?

Which corner to you sit in?

There ain’t no fence sitting here!

Join us for a gloves off joust on a podcast hosted by Andrew Codd Strength in the Numbers (SITN).

Lover or Hater of Excel you will most definitely learn something new, we promise….or at the very least have a good laugh.

And you thought accountants were boring.