For some, “automation” is an intimidating term. It conjures up mental images of a robot revolution, of humans floating around in hover chairs while machines to do everything for them, a la Disney’s Wall*E. But automation has already crept into your daily life and made it arguably better. How many of these automations are you using?
- Coffee maker: For those who need the cup of joe first thing in the morning, there’s the programmable coffee maker. Load it up the night before and set the time. Done: Your coffee is ready as soon as you are.
- Thermostat: If you tend to be away from home for extended periods of time during the day, programmable thermostats make it easy to save energy on heating/cooling when you’re not around, pumping the house to a cozy temperature just in time for your arrival.
- Ice maker: When was the last time you filled up a tray with water and made the tentative walk to the freezer to make ice? Enough said.
- “Hey Siri…” (or Alexa or Cortana or whomever): Set your alarm, remind yourself to water the garden, ask for the forecast, even request the phone to be dialed, all without lifting a finger.
Maybe automation isn’t all that foreign to us after all.
3 Levels of Excel Automation
While we’re already quite comfortable automating a lot of personal tasks—many perhaps even without realizing it—automation in the office may not be quite as universal yet. Sure, you may have automatic payment reminders sending to clients, or scheduled social media posts that allow you to “set it and forget it.”
But when it comes to your finance-related tasks, are you using automation to its fullest extent? Have you automated your Excel?
If the thought of updating your Excel reports for month-end makes you want to bang your head against the desk, there are several different automation options.
The Easy Option: Formulas & Features
Almost everyone who uses Excel even just a little bit knows at least one or two formulas. Real analysis is fueled by some of the more complex formulas such as VLOOKUP and INDEX/MATCH or through pivot tables. Fortunately, help on any of these harder formulas is a quick Google search away. Excel has created many experts in its 25 years; take advantage of what others already know and see how it can help you automate!
Medium Difficulty: Macros
Macros can record the steps you take and play them back to create the same result in a different cell. They’re pretty great, but even the smallest change in the automation requires recording the macro again from the beginning. Or you could become a Visual Basic (VBA) programmer…
Challenging: Visual Basic (VBA) Programming
Ready to take on a little more? A good VBA programmer—usually someone in IT—can work wonders with Excel automation. Beware, however, that you will need to rely on IT to update any of your reports. Unless you are lucky enough to have someone dedicated full-time to VBA programming (which is unlikely), you will be somewhat at the mercy of your IT department’s availability, and when you need a report updated at crunch time, that may not be time that you have to wait.
Automation Ease with Excel Add-ins
If you read through those other options and kept thinking there has to be a better way to automate your financial reporting, you’re right. There is. And that’s in the form of an Excel add-in. We love Excel as much as you do, but let’s face it: There are things it just can’t do for us on its own. That’s why developers with that same deep love of Excel have spent time finding ways to use Excel’s own strengths to make it easier to use with the simple enhancement of Excel add-ins.
In fact, developers at insightsoftware created two different Excel add-ins that take those very things we love so much about Excel and automate them to make Excel reporting and analytics as easy as clicking a button. With Spreadsheet Server and Atlas for Microsoft Dynamics, users can instantly connect their ERP and other relational databases and pull data into Excel exactly the way they want to see it every time. Reports—both regular recurring and ad hoc requests—can be run at the click of a button. Plus, the live connection to all data ensures that what you’re looking at is always up to the minute, live data.
Automation has many benefits, not least of which includes the time-savings that gives users the opportunity to analyze the data they’re reporting. In fact, 84 percent of surveyed organizations saved at least 50 – 100 hours in one year on their reporting process with Spreadsheet Server. With that freed-up time, users have been able to go home for family dinner, work less than a 12-hour day during month-end close, and even go back to school.
What could automation do for you? Find out by scheduling a FREE demo today. And don’t forget to program your coffeemaker for tomorrow morning.