While historical analysis and reporting continue to be important in understanding influencing factors and developments, it is planning in particular that enables resources and processes to be aligned with strategies and goals. Companies are optimally prepared for the future through more frequent simulations including scenario comparisons and a closer integration of planning and reporting. "Lessons from the financial crisis" for companies are above all the well-founded development of future-proof strategies, the better anticipation of possible risks, their monitoring and early reaction as well as a more comprehensive planning.
Microsoft Excel is still the most important software tool in the field of planning. Irrespective of the size of the company, spreadsheets are used in almost all companies in one form or another for planning purposes. Mostly these are areas such as sales or human resources, where flexibility is required above all to be able to map the individual requirements of the companies.
However, clear differences can be seen in the satisfaction with the tools used. Companies that carry out their planning with the possibilities of Excel are significantly more dissatisfied than companies that work with special planning tools, for example.
For planning tasks Excel is only conditionally suitable without additional specific functions and database connection. Major disadvantages manifest themselves in the lack of a consistent database, which in some cases contains countless Excel files, the high susceptibility to errors and the danger of inconsistencies due to numerous links, as well as the inadequate support of the planning process. Many companies recognize that their Excel-based solutions are too inflexible and error-prone and that the software offers too little support for the specific tasks of planning. Consequently, Excel is increasingly being replaced by proven, integrated software solutions for planning.
Dr. Christian Fuchs (Dipl.-Kfm.) is Senior Analyst and Consultant at the Business Application Research Center (BARC). He is author of the BARC studies "Software Tools for Planning" and "Software Tools for Financial Consolidation". He specializes in decision-supporting information systems with a particular focus on BI front-ends and process-oriented BI applications. He supports companies in the software selection process and the introduction phase.