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The Excel Curse and Automation Cure: 3 Reasons to Automate your Data

Posted by Mark Portz on Feb 21, 2017 1:05:00 PM

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The Excel Curse and Automation Cure: 3 Reasons to Automate Your Data

In the fifth Data Analytics Series BIGcast, Sorting Socks: A Data Automation Conversation with Graham Goble, John Best speaks with Graham Goble of BankBI about financial performance management, reporting, and business intelligence.

The Excel Curse

One primary point of discussion during the podcast is about the use of spreadsheets in comparison to data automation. “The Excel Curse” is certainly not unique to credit unions, but it is absolutely a problem across the industry that requires action. Excel is a powerful tool and serves a number of purposes very well, but advanced analytics for financial institutions is not one of them. Even for a spreadsheet guru, there a several fatal flaws in using such a software as a primary reporting tool in credit unions:

  1. It is very time consuming – Reporting in credit unions with excel typically requires various departments to create spreadsheets, which will be input into a master spreadsheet. Each step along the way, multiple team members are searching for data points and manually entering numbers and formulas. Credit unions need to shift their time from report creation and data production to analysis.
  2. Error prone – Manual data entry will always face a high risk of error. Even after all the various departments spend significant amounts of time creating their segments of the report, it is possible someone could have made a typo or even entered a formula incorrectly. On top of that, unless the entire organization is utilizing an enterprise data system and accessing the data via a single source of truth, there will be discrepancies and inevitable errors. For example, if marketing and lending departments are reporting from different systems, it is common for simple reports such as the number of members to be inconsistent, which makes reporting unreliable.
  3. Excel provides static reporting – Finally, if this is a monthly report, for example, this process will need to be repeated month after month in order to hopefully get insight from trends. As a result, valuable trends and insights can be difficult to uncover in Excel, even if you know exactly what you are looking for.

The Data Automation Cure

Data applications provide an alternative to the perils of relying on Excel for reporting at credit unions:

  1. Elimination of manual entry errors – Data is automatically pulled from the data source, eliminating the possibility for an employee to accidentally type the incorrect number.
  2. Data can be analyzed more frequently – Data automation can turn what may have been a monthly process into a daily process. Reports are more valuable the more frequently you can create data points to view trends, and as near to real-time as possible. Rather than waiting until the end of the month, wouldn’t it be nice to see how your data is changing day after day and be prepared to react accordingly?
  3. Data automation increases employee value – One way to measure employee value is to look at how much work that employee can complete. When data is automated, employees can shift their time from tedious production of data and spreadsheets to time spent on analysis and action. As mentioned on the podcast, if data automation helps an employee save 3 hours of time in a day, that time will not be wasted. He or she can now use that time to provide more value to the organization in other way, which creates “uplift”.

Check out the podcast to learn more about business intelligence, microfinancing, and the role of leadership in data optimization. To listen to the entire podcast, visit

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Topics: Data Analytics, Collaboration, Podcast