Business Intelligence- Why Excel is not the Answer!

May 13th, 2014 by Stan Duda

It seems like everyone loves Microsoft Excel.  With over 300 million users worldwide and growing quickly, it’s evolved into the common language of business.  It’s versatile, powerful and easy to use.  And, it’s inexpensive.  As such, it’s a popular choice with midmarket companies for business intelligence.  But, as a BI tool, Excel is sorely lacking. Here’s a list of what we see as the top ten reasons Excel is not the answer to the BI needs of midsize businesses:

  1. Excel does not guarantee data integrity. Users can make changes as they please. This is fine for doing informal analysis, but when interacting with your systems of record, it’s essential that the integrity of the data be intact and indisputable.
  2. Excel does not provide access control.  SharePoint attempts to address this problem, but can only do so at the file level.  Since BI is targeted for multiple users, managing the SharePoint “lists” becomes an information management nightmare.
  3. Data Quality – Excel does not provide data validation; as such, you may be doing analysis and making your plans based on bad data.
  4. The principle mode of transfer for Excel data  is email.  This means that critical information about your business being batted around in the ether.  Aside from the security risk, there’s also the possibility that information could be sent to the wrong address, perhaps even outside of your firewall.
  5. Spreadsheet data can be corrupted, particularly if the spreadsheets are large.  BI often requires moving huge volumes of data from many to many, which increases this risk.
  6. Likewise, voluminous spreadsheets can take hours to move from source to destination, if they get there at all.
  7. Manually converting an Excel file into a PDF or Word document is a tedious process, and increases the likelihood of error.
  8. As Excel files circulate throughout the organization, and revisions are made by users, tracking changes requires navigating a labyrinth of versions.
  9. Excel files are difficult to convert into Web pages or Portals.  In most, if not all cases, already overstressed IT resources are required in order to accomplish this.
  10. Effective BI requires that the business establish and users work with a SINGLE VERSION OF THE TRUTH.  In the Excel environment, there are always multiple versions of the data and no easy way to monitor and control who has what.

At one time, midsize businesses had little alternative but to live with these deficiencies, as real BI tools were expensive to buy, implement and maintain.  But, over the past few years, a number of affordable solutions have emerged, with IBM Cognos Express being one of the most prominent.

IBM Cognos Express is the only integrated solution for business intelligence and planning that is purpose built and priced for the midmarket.  As a result, midsize enterprises can now use the same analyses, dashboards, KPI’s and planning capabilities that were once restricted to their bigger, resource-rich competitors.

If you’re running a midsize business, every day you hesitate may be putting you farther behind your competition.  It’s time to talk to Alpine Consulting about how IBM Cognos Express can make you a leader, not a follower, in your industry.

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