Excel, The Last Revolution in Finance?

July 19, 2018

When Microsoft Excel was released back in 1985, it was a revolution. Microsoft had banished the pen, ruler and calculator all in one fell swoop. The ability to work on a digital spreadsheet, allowing you to change values at will, perform automatic calculations, and share and store the sheet on a computer provided anyone working in finance an incredible and efficient tool.

Nowadays, any modern finance office without Excel or similar spreadsheet software would simply cease to operate effectively. Ask any finance professional to go back to pen and paper spreadsheets and they would most likely start looking for another job right away.

The advancements that Excel brought were too large to ever give up again, and so became as engrained in work life as computers, email, and the telephone.

However, 1985 is over three decades ago. Since then, we’ve had crazy, futuristic advancements such as the Internet (1990), the answering machine (1991), text messaging (1992), DVDs (1996), even Google (1998). Yes, Excel is even older than the answering machine.

So, you may ask, aren’t we overdue for the next big revolution in Finance? The answer is, in fact, that the revolution is already here.

While Excel made history by making data effortless to input, manipulate and store, the Artificial Intelligence revolution will stake its legacy on taking that data, understanding and interpreting it, and providing real business intelligence.

The AI revolution is not just founded on data automation however, this has been around for years with spreadsheet macros and basic automation software, but on data interpretation.

Don’t expect the achievements of this revolution to be limited to those of the last, AI has the potential to transform finance functions even more drastically. Teams of 20 or more people can be condensed down to just one or two, leaving more staff available for real value-added tasks where humans excel, such as credit collections.

Not only does AI enable astronomical productivity gains, but its digital nature allows all finance functions to be linked holistically, with real-time data communication between traditionally split functions such as cash allocation and credit collections.

Where Excel simply, although revolutionary at the time, allows data to be stored and manipulated, AI solutions take it a step further, interpreting and understanding the data. AI solutions can identify patterns from mountains of data, one thing that is common to all finance departments. This allows disparate information (hundreds of spreadsheets, files and inputs) to be integrated into one viewpoint, identifying patterns, and assisting in creating advanced strategies that take into account the unique make up of a business’s customer base.

The benefits to the finance functions of a business such as cash allocation, bank reconciliation and credit collections are rapid and significant. As our customers know well, AI solutions can easily provide 70% cost savings, an 80% reduction in manual tasks and rapid returns on investment (typically less than 12 months).

To learn more about how AI has helped companies such as Veolia, TalkTalk and Adecco revolutionise their finance departments, why not check out our case studies page?