Ask the CFO: Help! My Team is Still Using Excel for Everything

March 31, 2023 Theresa Rex

Finance professional using excel sitting at desk

Dear CFO,

I'll get straight to the point: we still use Excel for everything!

Our processes have been in place for many, many years and even though working with what feels like hundreds of spreadsheets can be time-consuming and more than a little frustrating, the entire team is pretty much resigned to it. After all, "it's just how we do things."

I know that my team can be so much more effective if we could just move away from the status quo, but I also know that I'd be proposing a major change for not just our processes but for our entire system — I'm not naïve and I know that moving away from legacy tech isn't something that you can just "do".

There's a lot of work that goes into an implementation like the one I'd like to see, but I just know that it would be well worth it. We have so many experienced, super-talented folks in our finance department that could be adding a ton of value if we could just stop navigating all of these workbook tabs!

How do I even start this conversation?

Can you give me some advice on how to get buy-in for a big change when I know that the idea I'm proposing will cause a lot of growing pains in the short term but pay dividends in the long run?

Stacy Repult answering question about companies still using excel

Fellow Finance Leader,

I've been in your position before, so I feel your pain on this one!

Sometimes, even if you're tapped to be a changemaker in your role, you'll get a lot of pushback once you start to, you know, change things. That's when it's important to flex your influencing skills.

Before you get started, you need to remind yourself that if you can't articulate the justification for what you're trying to do, you need to step back and think it through so that you can. Start by walking yourself through it.

You have reasons for wanting the change. To start: It's risky! It's very risky to have a database in Excel. That's all your customer data. It's slow. It can cause cashflow problems because you can't close or invoice as quickly.

So, focus on how the solutions your change will enable can offset the cost it will bring.

Moving away from an Excel database will de-risk your information and enable growth for your company. You'll be able to invoice faster, get your customers the data they actually need, and protect and speed up that cash flow. You can break down siloes and bring in technology, and ultimately stabilize your processes.

You have to have all of your reasons lined up.

I've noticed that when you can engage your team and demonstrate the value-add of your proposal, you'll start to see hesitancy give way to enthusiasm. It's your job to make it easy to see how the company — and individual team members — will ultimately benefit from the change.

When you do, you'll have space for them to see what's possible and they'll start coming to you with creative ideas of their own, reinvigorated by the prospect of more time to spend on what excites them at work.

Stacy Repult, CFO

Stacy Repult, CFO

Stacy Repult is currently the CFO for FlexXray, a Warburg Pincus-owned company in the food safety sector. FlexXray is headquartered in Arlington, TX and has inspection facilities across the United States.

Prior to joining FlexXray, Stacy served as Principal for Juniper Capital Management, a Dallas-based PE firm. In this role, Stacy was responsible for sourcing, negotiating, and overseeing acquisitions across the infrastructure services sector.

Before Juniper, Stacy served as the CFO of Nimbix, Inc. At Nimbix, she was responsible for all accounting, treasury, financial reporting, and human resource matters and successfully closed the company’s Series B funding round. Her background includes M&A transaction advisory and financial leadership for privately held small- to mid-market and publicly traded businesses across the SaaS technology, B2B services, logistics and distribution industries.

Stacy earned her MBA from the University of Exeter and her bachelor’s degree in business administration, magna cum laude, at Baylor University. She is also a certified public accountant.

She was recently a featured panelist at Personiv's CFO Leadership LIVE event, Planning for a Successful 2023: The Future of Finance & What's Next, where she shared her insights on setting up finance teams for success while navigating post-pandemic challenges in tech and talent. For more insights from Stacy, check out the full recap of the event.

Still using Excel? Personiv can help with a solution that helps you make the most of your valuable time and talent resources. Get in touch today to see what we can do for your team or ask a CFO a burning question of your own.
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