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Posts Tagged ‘Excel vs ERP’

excel_cartoonA recent article at MSDynamicsWorld.com, which bills itself as “the independent leader for Microsoft Dynamics news and views” does a nice job of pointing out both the advantages and the pitfalls of that ubiquitous business tool, Excel.  As spreadsheets have evolved these past 30 years (I still vividly remember cutting my teeth on VisiCalc on the TRS-80 those may years ago), Microsoft’s flagship offering has become the de facto standard – not just for spreadsheets, which it no doubt is, but as a general data and analytics tool.

Without a doubt, one would be hard pressed to run a serious business today without Excel.  Its utility in aggregating and analyzing data quickly and iteratively is unsurpassed today in many circumstances.  Still, it has its pitfalls, as was recently recognized when a spreadsheet column error on a Eurozone crisis study fundamentally changed the results and caused some skewed decisions.  Still, in the end, it wasn’t Excel that was wrong – it was human error.  Nonetheless, it bears noting that Forbes Magazine once called Excel “the most dangerous software in the world.”

At the same time, who can deny the purposefulness of using Excel for basic supply chain planning tasks?  It’s still great for data analysis, measurements and comparisons, and a host of reporting chores.

The question becomes, what’s the right tool: Excel, or your general business system?  It’s really a matter of choosing your favorite club from the bag when it comes time to decide on the right tool.  Today’s ERP systems have become a central repository for company data, role-centric views, and giving everyone on the team the same view of the data – as fresh and current as it can be.  Thus, it’s important to determine the right club.  Do you want the expensive new driver, or the old nine iron, as Kinaxis Sr. Consultant  (and article author) Bill DuBois phrases it?  It depends, of course, on the shot.

Same holds true for comparing Excel to the data in your ERP system, so DuBois points out a few areas where your old Excel may not be up the challenge.  We’ll repost below a few of the common signs:

  • You have multiple data sources, in different locations, coming from different participants including customers and suppliers.
  • You’re looking for a single source of the truth for your planning organization.
  • You spend more time collecting data than working with information.
  • Your supply chain has become more complex beyond simple demand and supply balancing based on due date. You have multiple data sources, in different locations, coming from different participants including customers and suppliers.
  • You’re looking for a single source of the truth for your planning organization.
  • You find you can no longer respond to demand variability and supply chain disruptions effectively and profitably.
  • It’s becoming necessary to conduct what-if simulations in minutes or seconds versus hours, days or weeks.
  • Your IT department is resource constrained.
  • Multiple people need access to the same information, sometimes in locations where it would be better served up on a mobile device.
  • Your supply chain KPIs – on time delivery, margin, revenue and inventory turns – are not where you want them to be.

All good points, all reasons to make sure that the time you spend in Excel could not be replaced far more efficiently with the tools inside your ERP system, either now or in the future.

DuBois’ original article can be found here, (though signup to the site is required).

[Cartoon copyright by Mark Anderson, Andertoons.com]

 

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