Global treasury teams are wasting an average of 4,812 hours per year using traditional spreadsheets to manage their cash, payments and accounting operations, according to a new Kyriba survey of 100 plus major brands in the U.S. and Europe.
The biggest Excel time-waster, according to survey participants, was getting the daily global cash position, which sucks an average of 1,296 hours per year, followed by treasury-related accounting tasks (1,176), payment fund transfers (960), cash forecast generation (792), and 588 hours per year for other key tasks.
“The lost productivity due to spreadsheets is a huge opportunity cost for organizations,” said Dory Malouf, lead value engineer at Kyriba, who leads the ongoing research project. “Instead of focusing on value-add initiatives that help drive the business, treasurers and their teams, along with cash accounting managers, are stuck spending literally thousands of hours updating and manipulating spreadsheets.”
The survey of treasurers and senior finance professionals spanned multiple categories, including real estate and construction, retail, technology, manufacturing, financial services and much more. In each case, participants were asked as part of a detailed business case analysis to estimate in detail how much time they spent using traditional spreadsheets to manage various key tasks. Their estimates were compared to the time required to complete the same task with Kyriba, which automates and streamlines tedious manual reports, locks down data and offers significant benefits beyond data crunching.
The new data puts a new spin on the “raging” debate over whether finance professionals are overly dependent on traditional, labor-intensive spreadsheets to accomplish modern duties.
Last November, The Wall Street Journal published a seemingly innocuous article entitled, “Stop Using Excel, Finance Chiefs Tell Staffs,” in which CFOs such as Adobe’s Mark Garrett lamented the time his teams waste on spreadsheets, including pulling data from disparate systems. The article generated a firestorm of comments from finance professionals, and also prompted a follow up story based on those comments, “Finance Pros Say You’ll Have to Pry Excel Out of Their Cold, Dead Hands.”
“There is no question that finance professionals will not stop using spreadsheets in isolation, but what our numbers show, rather dramatically, is the cost of over-relying on spreadsheets to manage an entire finance function, like treasury,” Malouf said. “Spreadsheets are only effective to a certain extent, and cannot be counted on to scale to global requirements.”
Earlier this year, Malouf published his thoughts on what treasurers could be doing with the time they saved on spreadsheets by embracing cloud-based automation via a treasury management system, including spending more time on working capital optimization and strategic transformation initiatives. In other surveys, Kyriba clients have expressed the ability to recoup up to 80 percent of those wasted hours per year.
“In the end, the debate is not so much about Excel, as it about freeing up finance staff from the shackles of burdensome data assembly and validation,” said Cheik Daddah, global vice president of Value Engineering at Kyriba. “The most valuable asset for finance is time. Freeing up time enables finance professionals to focus on strategic analysis to uncover data and insights that help drive decision making.”