Excel is still a favorite for reporting in relation to cloud-based applications like Xero in the accounting space. It is predominantly driven by widely available knowledge, flexibility, and options for adding custom calculation options.
The beauty of this productivity tool is that exporting data to Excel is simple and straightforward, knowledge is widely available, and the flexibility and ease of adding custom calculations is unparalleled. For once-off applications, this is a great approach. For ongoing purposes that involve ever-increasing volumes and frequency of data – imperative in dynamic environments – Excel on its own is often not the best solution for the following reasons:
Hard to Maintain
Working with a simple table for a once-off report or analysis is one thing. But exporting data from various accounting areas like journals, invoices, and receipts, then combining data from these sources and turning them into an actionable report is a different ball game. And that is not even considering that you might want to combine the data with other sources like CRM, operational systems, etc.
The consequence is that highly qualified accountants often spend half a month on data preparation performing lookups, aggregating multiple sheets, and ensuring data quality. When the report is finally finished, the data becomes obsolete.
No Granular Security
Another downside of dumping data is that you end up with a multitude of insecure workbooks as data is stored openly, directly in a file (Excel workbook / Google Sheet). It’s “all or nothing” whoever can access the workbook can access all the data. Even worse is the danger of unintended consequences when users are overwriting (un/intentionally) the formulas or records. Concepts like audit trails offering clear transparency of “who has changed what” are unavailable.
Generally, there is a limit of a million rows in Excel, but by using Power Pivot, you can extend that. Still, neither Excel nor Google Sheets has been built for handling large amounts of data.
Using a Modern Excel Add-in for Xero
Nowadays, only a few solutions provide a high-functioning Excel Add-in: DataDear and Acterys are among the most popular and reliable ones. However, with DataDear pulling the plug on its support for Xero as it has been acquired by Intuit (Xero competitor), Acterys is your go-to choice as the most reliable and effective alternative for your financial planning and reporting needs.
Built-in on-Prem or Cloud Data Warehouse
While most solutions require you to have an existing data infrastructure, with the Acterys Excel Add-in, you get everything within the package. The solution comes with a prebuilt data warehouse (Azure SQL) and runs within Excel, saving you additional infrastructure costs and significantly lowering your total cost of ownership.
Reporting Automation via Live Link to the Data Warehouse
The solution maintains a live link to the data warehouse and automatically updates Excel reports whenever new data arrives from the Xero database. This means that all your data resides in a single spreadsheet, saving you from dealing with hundreds of Excel individual workbooks floating around the organization.
In other words, it ends the dreaded spreadsheet chaos for good!
Detail level security
The Excel Add-in requires users to authenticate access from the central server to ensure reports are only visible to people authorized to view and edit them. The solution also maintains a complete audit trail, keeping a record of everything step users make when working in the spreadsheet.
With the Acterys Excel Add-in, you can bring down maintenance to almost zero. This happens thanks to the one central, properly structured data model that is automatically generated as soon as you connect Xero with the central server. For specific reporting requirements, you can customize the data model in any way you like with ease.
Having a central model also saves a lot of time propagating changes through the reports. For example, if you add a new mapping on the server, it will automatically reflect in all the reports.
Works with Other Tools Seamlessly
Aside from the flexibility and scalability you get within Excel, you can use other tools with the central database, particularly Power BI, giving access to unparalleled analysis power, interactive dashboards, AI insights, etc. This fuels your analytics and planning efforts, allowing you to quickly consume data in Power BI reports and dashboards and get insights in real-time.
Whether you are a regular Excel user who wants to overcome the shortcomings of this longstanding productivity tool or a DataDear user looking for an alternative Excel add-in, Acterys can meet all your reporting and planning needs easily.
Download the free trial and give the Acterys Excel Add-in a try today. For DataDear users, we are providing a free guided onboarding session that includes initial training and migration support to transfer your DataDear reports to Acterys.