Monster Spreadsheets

Monster spreadsheets: The pros and cons of spreadsheet-based budgeting.

You’re working with this massive budget spreadsheet that someone put together years ago. It has macros all over the place, linking fields from the various worksheets. It’s always missing data such as forecasts from sales and campaigns from marketing.  While the goal is to use the data to make informed business decisions, most of your time is spent cleaning up and trying to understand the data.

Spreadsheet Pros

You, like most business people, have used spreadsheets for years. Excel might be the only budgeting tool you have ever seen. The interf is familiar. There are no surprises. You enter data and instantly get your results.  Working with spreadsheets can be easy, when they don’t get too complicated.

Another benefit is that you can put together a spreadsheet without ever calling the IT department for help. If you have a question on how a function works, all you have to do is use Google. There are plenty of tips out there on how to get the most out of your spreadsheet without complex coding required.

Spreadsheet Cons

Spreadsheets are only as reliable as the data in them. The problem? They contain more errors than a Chicago Cubs season. And as those spreadsheets grow, you find more and more problems. The macros get more complex. Links between workbooks break. These issues only get worse as you try to incorporate data from more sources.

Spreadsheets also do not have a reliable version control system. Your spreadsheet file name probably contains the version number and date when it was created. How do you reliably know that other departments are working with the same version?

The data itself is not secure. It is open to everyone that needs has access to your spreadsheet. You have no ability to hide or expose data based on roles within the company. This is a great way for your salary or other sensitive data to leak out to the rest of the company.


There are plenty of budgeting tools out there. The problem is trying to get your people to use them. If you try to take away that comfort your team has with spreadsheets, the process will generally fail. Spreadsheets are like a security blanket to business people. And even if they must use another tool, they will keep working day in and day out with their spreadsheets.

So any budgeting solution that is going to work must retain that Excel formatting and functionality. It needs to be a seamless transition. And it needs to be as easy to use without requiring complex programming or assistance from your IT department.

You should be spending more time making business decisions and acting on them than you spend cleaning up your data! With it’s robust Excel integration, Cognos TM1 is the solution.

Download this complimentary white paper “Budgeting Beyond Spreadsheets”.