January 27, 2022

The Dark Side of Excel Spreadsheet Reconciliations


We all love Excel. Spreadsheets may seem flexible in tracking your accounts data and completing your month-end close process. But do you really know the damage and cost Excel can cause in the month-end close process, to you and your team?

The trouble with spreadsheets

A costly reality is not with Excel itself, but with manual “Excel Spreadsheet Reconciliation’ process. Most businesses must invest a fair amount of time programming and formatting documents to establish the import of data, the formatting during import, and the reorganization so users can start using formulas and functions to perform the Month End Close. This must be followed by testing to ensure correct figures are in place. Another challenge is that spreadsheets are not easily adaptable to suit specific business requirements, and don’t account for changes in business procedures or increased frequency and complexity in transactions. They can also quickly become incredibly complicated and cumbersome to operate and maintain.

Beyond the significant amount of time required in programming your spreadsheets and manually entering financial data, we must also factor in human error. The error rate found in manual reconciliation of accounts is between 0.8% and 1.8. At first glance this error rate may appear insignificant, however if your business processes 100,000 transactions per day that results in 800 to 1,800 errors occurring on a daily basis.

Consider the fines and reputational damage associated with accounting errors. An incorrect keystroke, removal of formatting or accidentally deleting just one cell could corrupt the integrity of the data causing, at best, more time required by your financial team and, at worst, negatively impacting on your financial records and your organisation’s financial standing.

Excel spreadsheet reconciliation errors

New solutions beyond spreadsheets

Some ERP systems eliminate some of the programming work necessary with spreadsheets, and automate the bulk of straight-forward reconciliation work. But the tricky ones still remain and you will still be faced with either manual work or a home brewed programmed version of Excel (or other such programme), still requiring manual reconciliation of accounts. This results in tedious hours of repetitive work for your finance team.

Automated accounts reconciliation software on the other hand, makes it possible to automate, standardise and visualise the processing of transactions. Automated solutions are well suited to either small or large companies with a high number of transactions. Especially those with a complex transaction structure of multiple banks, suppliers and vendors.

Online software available on the Cloud (SaaS) is a viable alternative for small to mid-size enterprises as it does not come with a large setup cost or investment in hardware. Additionally, contracts are more flexible and software updates and support are available via the Cloud.

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