Since Microsoft introduced Excel nearly 30 years ago, businesses and nonprofits have benefited from the power of the spreadsheet. As BI, or business intelligence, became more important, new requirements emerged. The need for unique calculations – graphing and macros (automating tasks in a spreadsheet) – became instrumental in the process of gathering and reporting data. For years, analysts have worked mostly in Excel. Excel provides users with the ability to produce results with automated computing power. For those buried in the data, this was a life saver.
So what’s the problem? Well, for those manipulating and presenting the data, the results of the calculations are only as good as the data in each cell. Even with triggers inside the worksheet, the data represented in the final report is all dependent on the user’s abilities and attention to detail. Inadvertent keystrokes, sharing spreadsheets among team members, and version control make ensuring data accuracy difficult. We’re not saying that Excel isn’t an amazing tool. It will continue to be a key part of every organization’s tool set, but with new technologies available to us, we now have more options.
The Benefits of Change for Finance and Accounting
We wouldn’t recommend change just for change’s sake, but without change there is no growth. When we find ourselves buried in Excel reports, spending hours on end trying to manipulate and reconcile data, we need to consider whether there’s a better option. In the non-profit world, there is a great deal of emphasis on good stewardship of the funds given to our mission. Time is money and when we spend too much time building and presenting reports, and when we struggle with the accuracy of those reports, we’re not being the best stewards we can.
When it comes to gathering and reporting on financial data, what if the data within the accounting application generated, calculated, automated and graphed that data for you? What if you didn’t have to bring data into Excel to manipulate it and produce reports? And what if the data was real-time, and not a snapshot of yesterday’s data or whatever day it was exported from the accounting system into Excel?
Let’s look at the benefits of some of the new technologies available to nonprofit finance and accounting departments.
#1 – Get out of the transactional and into the strategic
With modern financial systems like Intacct, data can be calculated and presented without manual manipulation or the use of Excel. The data are stored and sorted natively within the system to mimic Excel. Non-financial and operational information can easily be incorporated into Intacct to allow for greater in-depth analysis. The finance and accounting staff can spend more time analyzing the data versus building reports. After all, real-time, relevant data is crucial to establishing and fulfilling your visionary goals.
#2 – Free flow of data
Why pull data from other systems manually when it can be done for you? Cloud technology has opened communication between systems using Application Programming Interfaces or APIs so that data can automatically flow between them. This means you have access to all the data in one system and can minimize the man hours of gathering the data yourself.
#3 – You and your team become agents for change
We need to embrace change in order to expand our reach as a non-profit. Generations come and go, and with new generations come new inventions. By embracing the benefits of new technologies that were once relegated to huge enterprises, church and nonprofit finance teams can add strategic value to their organizations. Instead of spending hours manipulating data and building reports, modern accounting systems like Intacct allow you to step back and start analyzing that data.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
– Albert Einstein
Take the Time to Evaluate New Accounting Technologies
If you are buried in Excel in order to produce board reports and unable to provide program and ministry leaders with timely data, take the time to look at your options. With the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud model, nonprofits reap the benefits of expensive business technologies at a fraction of the cost. If you want to get better results when it comes to productivity, time management, and financial analysis, get out of the insanity business and make the changes needed to produce different results…compliments of Albert Einstein.
To read about how North Metro Church in Marietta, GA embraced new technology to decrease their dependency on spreadsheets for financial management and reporting, click the button below.