A Halloween Tale: Healthwise Escapes Spreadsheet Hell

Healthwise-Halloween-500-687“Thanks to Adaptive and Carlson, we no longer have the Annual Budget Model from Nightmare on Excel Street!” stated a euphoric Kelly Richmond, Budget Manager and Financial Analyst from Healthwise, Incorporated, a global non-profit organization dedicated to helping people make better health decisions.

Healthwise, like many organizations, was stuck in ‘Spreadsheet Hell’. They had budget data spread far and wide across multiple spreadsheet files and consolidation of those worksheets caused excruciating pain and mental torment. The FP&A team lived in a nightmare of manual data input and report assembly purgatory. With Adaptive, they are now able to budget and report by project, contract and budget adjustment category (e.g. temporary transfer, approved permanent transfer, to be reviewed) quickly, easily and in a collaborative manner. Kelly continued, “I look forward to replacing many more of our Nightmare on Excel Street reports with Adaptive!”

Eliminate spreadsheet hell and experience planning heaven with Carlson Management Consulting and Adaptive Insights. Contact us for more info.

Is There Still a Role for Spreadsheets in Finance?

Spreadsheets-dont-work-485-277Let’s face it – spreadsheets will have a role and offer value to finance to some extent for the foreseeable future. As a “spreadsheet jockey” myself, I use them primarily for ad hoc analysis and reporting. One of the questions that needs to be asked though is, does your FP&A team spend 80% of their time getting data into reports and tying them out for analysis and only 20% of the time actually analyzing the data? Or, do they spend 20% preparing reports and 80% on analysis. If it’s the former, which is actually quite common, then you should seriously consider an alternative to spreadsheets. While many in finance tend to want to stick with what they know, not using a more appropriate technology is a disservice your FP&A team and organization as a whole. Outstanding spreadsheet skills do not necessarily translate into added value for the organization. Understanding the business and using the proper tools for analysis helps to develop your team AND add value to your organization.

Winston-Churchill-614-298Furthermore, if spreadsheets are preventing you from producing a rolling 12 month forecast, you should consider a different technology. In my experience, by the time most spreadsheet-based budgets have been completed, they are already obsolete. As Winston Churchill famously said, He who fails to plan is planning to fail. I would take that truism further and say that He who produces obsolete plans is wasting his time and putting his company at risk. The forecasting process should be built on a budget and then updated regularly so that management can understand issues before they become crises and have the time to act. Cloud CPM technologies, and Adaptive Insights in particular, are purpose-built for this and are able to do so efficiently. Thus it frees up the FP&A team to focus more on developing expert knowledge of the business and ensuring the budget aligns with strategy. It also elevates the role of FP&A in the eyes of the executive team and the broader organization as they are able to proactively identify challenges that are on the horizon and then collaboratively seek out solutions.

So, yes, spreadsheets still have a role in finance but they should be relegated to more appropriate niche tasks while more capable cloud CPM solutions become the tool of choice for FP&A teams.

Ready to look beyond spreadsheets for your FP&A team?  Please contact me to discuss the benefits of Adaptive Insights, the #1 cloud CPM solution.


Join Carlson at the Controller Summit in Boston


The Controller Summit will bring together the best finance control professionals for a thought leading and innovative event.  Through keynote presentations and in-depth panel discussions – participants will delve deeper into specifically chosen hot topics. Being held at the Hilton Boston Back Bay hotel on November 12-13, Carlson will be showcasing our award-winning cloud performance management solutions and services.  Presentation topics at the event will include the following:

  • The Changing Role of the Controller
  • Fostering Leadership in the Finance Function
  • Partnering with the CFO
  • FASB and IASB Revenue Recognition
  • Reducing Financial Reporting
  • Improving the Financial Close Process
  • Compliance and Complex Regulation
  • Selecting & Implementing the Right Technologies
  • Accounting Transformation

Interested in attending but don’t have a pass, contact us to receive a discount code.  We look forward to seeing you there!

ASK ETHAN: Managing Growth Inside a Fast-Growth Firm

CFO-Thought-Leader-Horz-599-131How do you manage growth inside a fast-growth firm?  Ethan Carlson, co-host of the CFO Thought Leader Podcast, tackles our questions concerning strategies and the best practices organizations are adopting to manage rapid growth.

Join us as Ethan Carlson, CEO of Carlson Management Consulting, once more answers our questions to supply you with answers and a new mindset designed to help empower your finance organization to look ahead.

The following is an edited abstract from CFO Thought Leader’s “Ask Ethan” podcast featuring Ethan Carlson, CEO, Carlson Management Consulting, and Jack Sweeney, co-host of CFO Thought Leader.

CFOTL We’re speaking with Ethan Carlson, the CEO of Carlson Management Consulting as well as our co-host here at the CFO Thought Leader podcast. Ethan, welcome again.

Ethan It’s great to be back.

CFOTL Ethan, a lot’s happened since we were last speaking with you. In fact, Inc. rolled out its annual Inc. 5000 list, and there was Carlson Management on it this year.

Ethan Yeah, we were very excited to be recognized at No. 553 on the list that Inc. put out. And I think it’s attributed to the team’s effort and having a true client-centric focus and delivering great value to our customers. And so it’s an honor and we’re excited about it. And hopefully we can glean some information from our growth and talk about managing growth here with our listeners.

CFOTL Well, yes, so let’s take this from the point of view of the finance leader and ask the question: what needs to be top of mind with CFOs when it comes to managing growth?

Ethan I think any finance leader managing a growing organization is it’s a pretty easy four-letter word, cash. And so as you’re growing your business, you need to make sure that you have the cash flow and assets available to you to manage that growth. That’s sort of the short answer, and I think the longer way to look at that is I think that when you’re managing a high-growth organization, you have to be very focused and tactical on how you look at your business. Like I said, you have to make sure you have the ability to operate, so cash, but also looking at key metrics. You don’t have as many assets or they’re being pulled in a lot of different directions. So the ability to allocate resources effectively is always important, but I think it’s even more important in a high-growth situation.

So both our sales and customers of ours. We have a number of our clients who were also recognized in the Inc. list and we’re very pleased to see them with that recognition as well. And we find that the organizations that are focused on that and look at it in a way of being, like I said, very tactical, what are the next things they need to do to get them to that next major milestone, the organizations we see that just have a five-year projection, very rosy, with a big hockey stick at the end, they’re not as on top of things. But the ones that know what’s the next major milestone or what are the key tactics to getting there are the ones that we see being very successful.

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Visit Carlson at EACUBO in Philadelphia


If you are a higher ed business officer on the East Coast, chances are you at the EACUBO Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. Swing by our booth and meet with Brian Teets, our higher ed finance specialist, to get a demo of our higher education performance management solution.  Take a look at the short video then come by to see the solution in action.