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University's 4-Hour Reporting Process Becomes Instantaneous with Spreadsheet Server

New solution puts finance in control of PeopleSoft reporting to streamline year-end processes, budgeting, and variance analysis

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Running financial point for that many segments of the university created quite a challenge for UNC’s finance team. Data accumulated in their PeopleSoft ERP system, but native reporting tools couldn’t meet the team’s specialized needs. “We were running reports in PeopleSoft/nVision,” recalled Sheri Olson, senior financial reporting business analyst for UNC – Chapel Hill. “But the data produced was just a point in time. There was no interaction. If a number came out and you wanted to know the data behind it, you had to go into PeopleSoft and create and run several iterations of a query to find the dollar amount and what was behind that.”

As requests for reporting became more sophisticated, Olson knew her team needed the ability to create the necessary reports to analyze variances in a more efficient way.

“nVision reports were managed by IT,” she said. “To get any changes or updates made to a report was a time consuming process. You couldn’t make more adjustments. And there were always changes to make.”

Olson and her team would create their own adjustments manually in Excel to ensure reports were correct. However, the output was not only disconnected from the source data, but also impossible to recreate, eroding trust in the report data. “We started looking for a tool that would give us ownership of the data and reports,” Olson said. “We needed something that would let us change when we needed to.”

Building Success with Spreadsheet Server

Because of UNC’s existing system set-up, the team required a solution that would connect directly to PeopleSoft. In the course of researching solutions, Olson discovered Spreadsheet Server by insightsoftware. “What we liked about Spreadsheet Server in particular was that we could connect it directly to our production environment, which is extremely important for audit financials at the end of the year,” Olson recalled. “Not a lot of tools have that option or capability.”

The team implemented Spreadsheet Server for their PeopleSoft in mid-summer 2017 and immediately set to work creating all the income statements, balance sheets, notes, and other supporting material for their annual financial reporting. The results were staggering.

“Previously at year end, we’d run nVision reports overnight, copy and paste everything into Excel, and make sure all the lines matched up,” Olson said. “If there was a new account, it might not be on yesterday’s report, so you’d have to move everything manually. Then you’d get all the variances worked out. And all this took four hours every day before the team could even start analyzing the numbers.”

Now the team simply opens Excel in the morning and runs the Spreadsheet Server report. Data is available where and when they need it for immediate analysis. When there are questions on numbers, the team can drill into the number and validate the variance. “We love the fact that we can just open Spreadsheet Server up and the data’s all there and it’s pretty,” Olson remarked.

Spreadsheet Server Automates Data Collection for Budgeting

Over the past year, Spreadsheet Server usage has expanded into the budgeting arena to help the team at UNC create their all-funds budget template. Lacking an effective reporting tool that will allow campus users to extract budget data from PeopleSoft after they had entered it, different segments across the university simply keep budget data in a local spreadsheet, pull actuals from the system, and update their budget sheets manually. This disjointed process bogs down productivity with unnecessarily time-consuming and challenging data collection and collation.

Now with Spreadsheet Server, Olson and her team have been able to build templates to extract the necessary data to fill in worksheets for each area to complete. “We had 41 different files we needed created,” Olson said. “With Spreadsheet Server, I clicked a button and it created all the files for me to send out. It was a huge help.”

“What we liked about Spreadsheet Server in particular was that we could connect it directly to our production environment, which is extremely important for audit financials at the end of the year. Not a lot of tools have that option or capability.”

Sheri Olson Senior Financial Reporting Business Analyst

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