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Excel has no place in strategic business operations

By October 24, 2016Article

What if enterprises stopped using Excel to run their strategic operations? Before you roll your eyes and jump back into a spreadsheet, hear me out. It’s not to say that Excel doesn’t have its place in tactical business functions; it just doesn’t have the range to be the strategic backbone of enterprise operations. 

Today’s decentralized global enterprises require collaborative solutions to support them. Sharing spreadsheets back and forth via email puts sensitive data at risk and slows down the enterprise while more agile competitors move to cloud-based collaborative solutions. Making a strategic investment in operational cloud solutions is hardly a “bleeding edge” decision; operational options exist for virtually every strategic vertical including sales, service management, enterprise planning and sourcing. 

Here are just four examples of strategic business segments that have replaced Excel dependency with operational cloud solutions and empowered the rest of the enterprise in the process. 

  • Sales operations. Sales operations has become the poster child for cloud migration. No doubt, a sales rep could manage tactical tasks and territory coverage in Excel, but using manual spreadsheets to forecast and manage a sales pipeline would have an executive laughed out of the boardroom. Cloud CRMs have opened the door to real-time operational data that provide the enterprise with new levers to accurately predict and influence the outcome of future deals. Gone are the days of tribal knowledge; in its place is business intelligence that enables the organization to accurately plan and manage sales velocity quarter after quarter. 
  • Service management. Enterprise service management has also migrated from spreadsheet-based ticketing to collaborative cloud workspaces. Agile organizations have automated business services to connect requestors and providers in real-time across the enterprise. These new-breed solutions leverage big data analytics to group recurring requests and identify opportunities for service improvement. Service-minded cloud solutions have expanded beyond IT to encompass HR, facilities and field service. Teams are no longer operating in isolated spreadsheets behind a lone help desk and are better equipped to assure quality service and improve performance on critical service metrics. 
  • Enterprise planning. The strategy of analysts building custom Excel models for operational enterprise planning may sound familiar, but it isn’t a scalable way to grow an enterprise. Cloud-based modeling engines provide the businesses a real-time operational map that allows them to respond quickly to unexpected changes. Accurate, scalable forecasting has replaced homegrown spreadsheet models as the standard for planning and performance decisions. This means enterprises can now increase productivity and profitability with real-time cloud computing that effortlessly manages market variables and provides a deep understanding of the numbers that drive the business. 
  • Sourcing and procurement. Long gone are the days of back-office sourcing functions based solely on cost cutting. Strategic sourcing operations are now integral to managing margins and supporting growth across the organization. As a result, sourcing teams are transitioning from tactical purchasing tools like Excel pricing sheets and supplier questionnaires, to collaborative enterprise platforms. Just like the transformation of sales, service and planning operations, strategic sourcing teams use cloud solutions to predict successful business outcomes, collaborate across decentralized teams and accelerate existing processes. This allows enterprises to leverage operational data to strengthen supplier relationships, enforce process compliance and provide the business with the insight to meet larger strategic goals. 

Bearing all of these transformative solutions in mind, I ask again: Why hasn’t every enterprise stopped basing their strategic operations in Excel? The agile, hyper-growth players already have. And, for companies that haven’t, it’s not too late to make the leap. 

In my experience, intuitive cloud solutions that enable collaboration and agility are a breath of fresh air for teams looking to maximize their impact on the enterprise. Strategic operations and successful business outcomes are a match made in the cloud. 

Alex Yakubovich is CEO and co-founder of Scout RFP, a new-breed, cloud-based strategic sourcing solution that allows organizations to make more informed purchasing decisions, faster. Prior to Scout, Alex co-founded ONOSYS, which was acquired by LivingSocial in 2012. 






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