Saturday, May 14, 2005

Further thoughts on excel & planning

In an exchange last year with Frank Scavo, he had asked the question in a post "Do you think that using Excel is a viable alternative to buying a costly SCP system?" I had replied in my blog that
  1. Excel has its advantages in terms of ease of end user configurability
  2. Excel has huge drawbacks in terms of plan synchronization
  3. The best-in-class SCM solutions have now moved to marry the advantages of both of these approaches.
I just came across some more people starting to think this same way.
Excel is good for plan analysis and plan creation. Planners can easily analyze their plans using an interface that is familiar to them and is easily customizable in terms of layout, pivots, filtering, graphs, logical functions, math functions. They can create their own models and logic to create plans. But in most enterprises, with revenues over 100 M$, planning and monitoring the execution of that plan is not an exclusive domain of a single person. The enterprises have multiple people that need to be coordinated to create a plan. Excel lacks the infrastructure to be able to create this collaborative infrastructure. On top of that the planning logic that is needed is more sophisticated than can be programmed exclusively in Macros which planners are most familiar with. The best-in-class SCM vendors are moving towards marrying the advantages of excel with the advantages of a sophisticated supply chain management package.
I came across a web seminar that was sponsored by Business Finance that shows that other vendors in other domains are also starting to think the same way. Individual excel workbooks connected to a central planning server helps in making sure that
  1. Visibility across pockets of data is provided
  2. Control/Versioning of the data is available reducing the debating of the numbers
  3. Cycle time for planning is reduced so that planning cycle time does not exceed business' time frame
  4. Predictability is provided through the linkages across multiple people's plans to understand cause & effect
The trend to embrace excel as the user interface tethered to a central planning server is a great trend.
What do you think?
Karthik Mani

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