The great debate: Excel versus a database application

The discussion of an Excel versus a database application approach to budgeting is not a new one, but it is one that takes some understanding of what your requirements are in your budgeting process. Over the years, we’ve gauged that more than 75% of public sector and non-profit organizations use Excel as the go-to solution for budgeting and forecasting.


What is the right tool for you? Let’s compare.

 ExcelDatabase Application
Information is local to spreadsheets
• Static version of the data

• Versioning is difficult

• Understanding what numbers are correct

• Accumulation and consolidation of data is manual and difficult

• All data and versions are stored centrally

• Data accumulation in real time and automatic aggregation
Information is scattered
• Decentralized budget entry

• Difficult to get up-to-date information

• Multiple versions of spreadsheets scattered on desktops and file servers

• Centralized budget entry-all information in one location

• Information is right at your finger tips

• Single data repository provides a single version of the truth
Manual data entry issues
• Linked spreadsheets that can break

• Where does this number come from? Is it updated?

• Maintenance of a multitude of spreadsheets is difficult and error prone

• Brings together financial and non-financial data from a variety of sources

• Consistent presentation and aggregations

• Unified database removes the need for spreadsheet links
Communication and collaboration

• Inability to easily share information

• Sharing of final reports is generally facilitated by email

• Lengthy, inefficient update process when multiple participants are involved

• Bringing data together from multiple files and data sources can be difficult

• Data is stored centrally with the option to email various reports and versions

• Multiple users can contribute to the same report and data simultaneously

• Step-by-step process flows to guide users
A standard approach
• Unstructured workflow process of approvals

• Loose and unstructured process requiring time to monitor

• Unstructured data

• Lacks multi-dimensional view

• Reports with different formats and layout floating around

• Structured process for approvals

• Real time progress monitoring and approvals

• Budgets and reports can be locked down

• Data aggregation is performed consistently and across multiple dimensions for better insight

• Consistent look and feel can be applied easily to all reports

• Ability for users to create their own reports via ad hoc reporting
Version control
• A saved spreadsheet represents a version

• Version comparisons and analysis involves manual manipulation

• Versioning is possible with a simple drop down selection

• In report, drill down functionality to ease root cause analysis

• Version comparisons are facilitated with out-of-the-box reports

• Unlimited number of versions

• Security manages user access to versions
Variance reporting
• Typically a manual, time consuming process of exporting actual cost from the financial solution and then formatting and massaging the numbers to facilitate actual vs. budget comparisons

• Most departments receive quarterly variance reports

• Through integration, actual costs can be imported at any interval Finance determines — nightly, monthly, quarterly

• Departments are empowered to access their variance

• without reliance on Finance department

• Finance has more time to focus on reporting and analysis
Post budget approval
• Finance department required to manually key in the approved budget into the financial solution for variance reporting

• Post budget amendments usually take place in the financial solution

• Through integration the approved budget can automatically be pushed into the financial solution, reducing the chance of human error

• Post budget amendments can be done in the database and then pushed to the financial solution, if needed
Audit trail
• Changes to budget modifications(what, when, why) not tracked through the system

• Limited to keeping copies of files

• All details can automatically be tracked

• Changes in values, time stamp, user, etc.

• Removes the need for multiple spreadsheet copies
Data security
• Security is mostly left in the hands of each user

• Typically all or nothing

• Role-based security can be aligned to teams or individuals for ease of maintenance

• Consistent security model between budget and forecast versions, actuals and reports
Change management
• People like to stay with something they already know and are comfortable using

• The transfer of knowledge is limited when the people retire or move on

• Typically adopted by public sector and non-profit organizagions that see the need for better processes in order to increase productivity

• Knowledge transfer is facilitated by training a core group of staff who are then able to train others
User friendly
• Most budget contributors are familiar with Excel

• Minimum to no training required

• No IT resources required to maintain

• Initial training is required

• Extra IT resources may be required to maintain the application


Want to learn more about how Questica can help your organization ditch Excel spreadsheets for faster and more accurate budgeting? Learn more about Questica Budget Suite or request a demo today!