Monday, 23 March 2015

Time to move from spreadsheets to specialised software?

Many companies keep their financial information in spreadsheets; carefully designed and programmed by an accountant, business owner or financial manager. Spreadsheets are a wonderful tool and have served many a business’ budgeting, forecasting and planning needs; but there comes a time when you need to look at moving across to specialised financial software that gives you more control over, and insight into, your financial information.


Here are a few ways to know that time has come…

Growing in size & complexity 
Spreadsheets are perfectly fine for small simple companies; but as you start to grow and expand your services or gain employees and even potentially expand your focus, you need more input and have to start consolidating spreadsheets. Macros and formulas get increasingly complicated and can break and your spreadsheets become unusable. 

Specialised budgeting and forecasting software is designed and built to manage your expansion needs with ease. 

Multiple businesses under one company
Consolidating budgets and forecasts across multiple departments is difficult enough; trying to do so with multiple departments from multiple businesses in a spreadsheet is pure madness. 

Different businesses have different reporting needs, they need different information to make the right decisions for their budgeting, forecasting and planning. And one error made in one department of one of the businesses can leave analysis of the bigger picture for the holding company impossible and completely skewed. 

Specialised software provides you with the means to pull multiple versions of reports based on the information you need, and allows you to get the meaningful analysis you need to make your business decisions. 

Too many cooks...
In a smaller business, there is usually one person who manages your finances - one person collecting data, inputting it and creating reports from it. Spreadsheets are created for this - calculating values and crunching numbers. The only weakness in this set up is that one person. 

Once you start growing, you will start having more managers who have valuable information to contribute and have a need for pulling their own reports with data relevant to their own divisions or departments. If all of these people begin interacting with that spreadsheet, the weaknesses and room for error begin to multiply. 

This is the time to look at a dedicated software solution that can offer more than the basics. 

Risky business
With spreadsheets, your IP sits in the head of the person who designed the spreadsheet; so if they leave the company, the IP leaves with him. A specialised toolset has formal administration modules, so everything of importance stays within your system, regardless of who inputs the information. 

Consistency is key
When different divisions are sending in their budgets in whatever format works for them and information is organised inconsistently, it becomes increasingly complicated to reconcile it all. This becomes a massive time issue for all parties concerned, with repeated back and forth’s and arguments, dreaded by all. 

Current specialised software allows input from multiple parties, and then can reconcile all the information in a consistent format. 

“User Friendly” is more than words
When you want to be able to get input and feedback from non-financial users in your business - the people who are on the front line, managing your business; you need your data to be accessible and understandable to everyone. 

Spreadsheets and endless lists of data are extremely intimidating to people who are not financially inclined, leading to resistance and avoidance; delaying your budgeting process and causing undue stress for all involved. 

There is dedicated financial software that is specially designed to be properly user friendly; making the budgeting and forecasting process simple and beneficial to financial and non-financial users.  

When your budget becomes more than a “nice-to-have”, and you begin to use it as a way to map the future of your business; you need to take a look at the state of your spreadsheets and make a call… The time comes in every business where you need to let the specialists focus on what they are best at, so you and your staff can focus on what you are best at.

Monday, 9 March 2015

How to outwit Eskom

So many of our businesses are feeling the strain of Eskom's load shedding. The feelings of frustration and the inability to do anything about lost time and, at times, lost work are being expressed across all industries. Of course, concerns about delays and lost data become even bigger when dealing with your financial information.

Here are a few general tips on how you can outwit Eskom and keep on working:

1. Ensure all your laptops and mobile devices are fully charged. If you have a high quality laptop, the charge can last as long as 12 hours, though the norm should be around 2 hours, allowing you to keep working even if you are offline and in the dark. 

2. Review your software's export / import functionality. There is software available that allows you to export specific data into the familiarity of Excel; work on your figures, and re-import it. This means you can export the data you are working on before your area is load shed, and re-import it with changes into the system once the power returns.

As a side note, check the file format for importing data; using .xlsx as opposed to .csv. ensures no dropped leading zeros, no duplication and import functionality that is impossible using .csv files.

3. Check if your software has an auto-save function. How often do you hit Control-S while working on your documents? How much peace of mind will it provide knowing your data has been saved automatically if the load shedding schedule changes unexpectedly, and you didnt hit Save after that last set of calculations?

4. If you are working offline, you may create additional documentation that relates to your budget. Check if you have the ability to upload supporting documentation at every step of the budget process, as this will allow you to provide full motivation and explanation for budgeted values when needed.


Your financial software cant keep your power on for you, but it can keep you powering through with what you need to do, supporting you in keeping the lights on in your business in the longer term.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

How you can help fight the Cape Town fires

To all those who have sent good wishes and concern; thank you so much. We are all safe and the fire has not reached us here at Steenberg.

We have however been witness to the devastation nearby and the incredible spirit and bravery of those fighting these terrible fires right on our doorstep.

We have been trying to help out with supplies; plasters, Rehydrate, eye drops, painkillers, food and drinks for the firefighters in Tokai forest. Nothing we can do will really express how grateful we are for all they are doing to keep all of us; our family, friends, forests, wildlife and homes; safe.

If you would like to help, they are very much in need of help with operational costs, such as fuel, vehicles, uniforms, firefighting equipment. You can make a once-off donation or set up a monthly pledge (no amount is too small). For more information, you can go here