Excel Should be Outlawed

Excel should be outlawed.  There.  I said it.  Or, if not outlawed, you should at least have to pass a “common sense test” to be allowed to use it.

I just came from yet another meeting with a client where the controller spent hours and hours putting together an elaborate spreadsheet presenting financial information when 95% of the data was available by the push of a button in their accounting software.  The irony is that the controller claimed the data in the “system” was wrong, but his spreadsheet was right.  Huh?  If the data in the “system” is “wrong”, isn’t that indicative of bigger problems and shouldn’t that be addressed?

What is it with people who would prefer to spend exorbitant amounts of time crafting complex spreadsheets when, if they took a few minutes to understand their accounting or ERP application, they could get virtually the same data in 10% of the time?  Excel is a crutch for people who don’t know how to actually use a system or for people who have the wrong system.  It is also the full employment act for accountants, financial analysts, and consultants.

I’ve seen companies pay thousands and thousands of dollars per month to outside consultants and accountants for the ongoing preparation and updating of spreadsheets to present very routine information, but in a very specific format which might be subtly different from how their financial application presents the data.    The time and money spent re-keying, reformatting, verifying,  and reconciling could power a small country.  As an alternative, if they spent a fraction of that time and ongoing monthly cost to develop a custom report straight out of their application (using any one of Crystal Reports, Frx, or a plethora of other tools), formatted as they desire with the data they need, they could not only achieve a remarkable ROI but also get the data more timely and accurate.    Am I missing something?