Excel: The Secret Weapon in Your Tech Stack
In the ever-evolving world of technology, new tools seem to emerge daily, all claiming to revolutionize the way work is done. To provide clients with high quality work in a timely manner, an accounting firm’s tech stack must include technology to improve efficiency, increase productivity, grow their bottom line, and scale their practice.
However, firms that try to consistently stay on top of advancing technology find themselves with expensive bills and a team not sure what tools they’re supposed to be using. Tech stack bloat is a real problem. Fortunately, when it comes to the ideal accounting firm tech stack, the timeless spreadsheet tool, Excel, not only remains relevant but stands out above the crowd as the secret weapon to help your team succeed.
Combatting Tech Stack Bloat
Accounting firms are heavily investing in technology to enhance efficiency, cut costs, and offer advanced services. This tech adoption gives them a competitive edge and deeper financial insights for clients.
With over 30,000 SaaS products currently available and the global enterprise software market predicted to hit $404 billion by 2028, there's a rising concern: tech stack bloat. This happens when firms accumulate excess software solutions, leading to workflow inefficiencies, added costs, and security concerns.
Why Tech Stack Bloat is Detrimental for Firms
Workflow Inefficiencies: Too many software solutions can confuse staff, causing delays and disorganization. If there are too many tools and complex interfaces, team members may be slow to adopt the tool (or flat out refuse).
Complexity Issues: Overlapping tools combined with multiple databases or dashboards can cause issues with maintenance and consistency across the tools, increasing the chance of errors.
Rising Costs: A bloated tech stack can nickel-and-dime a firm to death with license, training, and support fees, and when combined with low usage means there’s no ROI on all those expenses.
“We hear from accounting firms every day that their teams are hesitant to adopt multiple tools that dictate WHERE work is performed,” says Justin Pulgrano, CRO of Finagraph and former EY senior manager.
“No software performs all the functions required for an accountant, and most tools require you to work inside their platform. The result? Every tool has its own login, a new interface to navigate, and new functionality to learn. Accountants want better processes, but there’s understandable skepticism about layering solutions on top of each other.”
There really is only one constant across the accountant’s workflow: Excel. Excessive tech stacks that don’t work fluently with accountant’s favorite tool can inflate costs, decrease efficiency, and affect service quality. It's crucial for accounting firms to scrutinize their tools to ensure they use the most appropriate solutions.
Why Excel Is Important
Although powerful tools and platforms for accountants exist, nothing tops the trusted spreadsheet when it comes to quick and accessible data analytics.
“Excel is important and will continue to be so because it provides a simple yet versatile platform for data analysis, visualization, and organization, essential for businesses and individuals,” said Wamike Katoch, Audit Transformation Manager for DataSnipper and former Internal Auditor at Deloitte and PWC.
Here are reasons why Excel remains the most used and most valuable tool in the accountant’s toolbelt:
Excel is Universal
Accounting firms often work with clients who run their business through a diverse tech ecosystem. However, no matter what systems they use, Excel is a tool that’s not just familiar to the accountants, but to most of their clients, regardless of size and complexity. Using Excel ensures a smooth collaboration between accountant and client.
Additionally, because Excel is so ubiquitous, firms can trust that new team members, regardless of tools used at previous firms, will have a baseline understanding of how to work in spreadsheets. If the firm’s processes and procedures rely heavily on Excel, then there’s less time needed to train and bring new hires up to speed on how to work the tool on top of how to use it in the context of firm processes.
Excel is Versatile & Customizable
Excel’s power isn’t just in its familiar rows and columns organizing data. With capabilities ranging from basic arithmetic to complex financial modeling, Excel offers unmatched versatility.
CAS teams can use it to generate monthly or quarterly reports for the clients. Auditors can customize audit procedures, perform variance analysis, and even model potential scenarios.
It’s a versatile tool that allows for multiple use cases, all in the same place and without having to go back and forth logging into multiple dashboards and platforms.
Additionally, Excel is easy to customize. With formulas and design features all built in, firms can create beautiful AND functional financial statements to share with clients.
Data Analysis Advancements
Pivot tables, formulas, and queries have long been accountant tools in Excel, but the functions Excel can perform continue to grow and evolve. Recent updates like Power Query and Power Pivot give accountants the ability to clean, transform, and analyze large volumes of data that previously wasn’t possible within the tool.
Integrations with Other Tools
While Excel is powerful, it isn’t an island. In addition to its own powerful tools, Excel’s beauty is that it is a platform in and of itself. There are tools and add-ons that can function right within Excel giving the team all it needs to complete their tasks without ever having to leave the tool they are most comfortable working with.
These tools ensure that data can be conveniently imported into the familiar Excel environment accurately, quickly, and securely. This allows accounting firms to harness the best of both worlds: the advanced features of specialized accounting and audit tools combined with the comfort and flexibility of Excel.
These factors combine show that Excel truly is the secret weapon to help accounting firms stay on top of the benefits of technological advancements while minimizing the risk of tech stack bloat.
How to Make the Most of Excel
As discussed above, the combined benefits of how universally used Excel is by accounting professionals and the ability to integrate gap-filling tools with Excel make it a powerhouse weapon for firms. To truly get the most out of this secret tech stack weapon, turn to tools built to work with Excel as a primary integration (not an “export to .csv” button afterthought) and are designed specifically to solve accounting problems that Excel can’t.
Here are two examples of accounting-specific tools that work with Excel:
Consider Strongbox the first step in any accounting project that plans to use financial data in Excel. Whether it’s an M&A deal where a target company needs to be analyzed through due diligence or an annual audit for a recurring client, the first step is to access the business’s financial data.
This step is not as easy as it sounds. The target company may not want to grant an unaffiliated 3rd party accounting firm access to its files, and the PBC (provided-by-client) request list from an auditor often leaves the client overwhelmed, confused, or, more likely both – leading to incomplete and missing data.
This is where Strongbox comes in. Strongbox connects the accounting firm to the business’s financial data from their accounting system through a secure, read-only link. And all the data is delivered in Excel, properly cleaned, analyzed, and formatted.
Instead of the team spending days or weeks going back and forth to get access or try to get information that wasn’t provided, they can get right to work performing their analysis in Excel after a single click with Strongbox.
While Strongbox extracts data from accounting systems into Excel, DataSnipper can import data not found in the accounting system – critical source documents needed for proof in audits and tax filings.
DataSnipper’s powerful automation can pinpoint the relevant information on the right document and extract it directly into Excel right where the team needs it. Whether it’s PDFs of bank statements for an audit or crumpled receipts from a sales rep’s pockets for tax filing.
Tax forms and documentation can be easily extracted from non-Excel formats and delivered right into the spreadsheet for review and analysis. Invoice Extraction can bring information like invoice number on a year’s worth of invoices into Excel in seconds. With data extracted into Excel automatically, the team has more time to focus on critical findings, inconsistencies, and regulatory compliance issues instead of slogging through manual data entry before the real work can begin.
Each of these Excel tools on their own deliver time savings, efficiency, and accuracy. However, when combined, audit teams and accounting professionals can make significant impacts on their margins, adapt to staffing shortages, and improve the quality of work-life balance among their teams, all while continuing to provide top-quality work for their clients.
Embrace the Power of Excel
While it’s essential to keep pace with the latest technological advancements in the accounting field, it’s equally crucial not to overlook the potential of tools that have stood the test of time. Excel, with its continuous enhancements and universal applicability, is a testament to this fact.
To the firming looking to rise above, embracing Excel can provide the edge in a competitive landscape. When combined with the power of Excel tools like Strongbox and DataSnipper, consider how Excel can be the secret weapon in your firm’s tech stack that will drive efficiency, accuracy, and excellence in your team.