• James Richard

3 Excel based Financial Planning Software Vendors You Must Know

Updated: Nov 16

Check out our review of 3 companies that developed an excel based financial planning software to allow companies to be more efficient.




The Complexities of Financial Management in Today’s Business World


The financial world is very different today than it was in 1985 when Excel was first introduced, and financial planning and managing revenue is increasingly difficult. Currency is converted at lightning speed and markets fluctuate greatly, creating a need for financial data to be more concise and faster than ever. The increased reliance on international trade of physical goods and data along with more government oversight and regulations, are all variables that make financial planning more difficult than in the past.


Various studies have shown that almost 90%(!) of spreadsheets contain errors, with some mistakes such as AstraZeneca accidentally adding confidential medical information into their spreadsheets that were released to the public, causing shares to drop immediately. Many companies are searching for an Excel upgrade that will help reduce manual labor time, avoid human error, and create a more efficient financial planning system. Here are 3 such companies that created an upgraded platform for spreadsheets in order to be more efficient in today’s fast paced world.






DataRails has many great features and is one of the best FP&A solutions on the market. Unlike other companies, DataRails is not an Excel replacement but rather it consolidates database numbers within already existing Excel files. This means that very little time needs to be spent on training the financial team on how to use the system. By continuing to use Excel, this system improves the spreadsheet and data efficiency, and takes a small learning period of only 6-12 weeks, one of the shortest integration periods on the market.


DataRails will automate the collection of all forms of financial data including GL, TB, Budget, Forecast, Sales, or any other data that uses spreadsheets or is generated by an organizational system. With a quick implementation and helpful customer support and training, DataRails is a great investment for the financial department of your company.






As the name suggests, the EPM software solution Planful focuses on future financial planning. The main difference between Planful and DataRails is that Planful is an Excel replacement, while DataRails works better with existing spreadsheets and data. For companies willing to learn an advanced but user-friendly Excel type system, Planful can be a great solution, but for those trying to integrate already existing Excel files with advanced analytics then DataRails might be a better choice.


Planful has both pre-built and customized templates to help suit your exact requirements, whether it’s anything from large data projects to modeling mergers and acquisitions. Planful is not only for FP&A, but it is also a workforce planner that unifies HR data from disparate systems.


Grant Halloran, the CEO of Planful, described the company in an interview in 2019: “A plan is an amalgam, it’s a manifestation of a whole bunch of questions and decisions that are made as part of that process. If you can connect all the relevant data points in the business, the data can kind of flow.”






Like DataRails, Vena prides itself on not having to abandon Excel in order to use their platform. In addition to budgeting, forecasting, and cash flow planning, Vena will help your company succeed by refining analytics on subjects such as tax provisioning and incentive compensation management, which generally takes many hours of manual input to figure out.


Vena also focuses on security and clarity. With locking options on the templates, each user knows what data is theirs and can keep their numbers where they belong to avoid costly mishaps. CFO’s and heads of finance can control data access and see the history of template access in order to know where the numbers are coming from. With automatic data loading into a single source of truth, you can spend less time collecting data and more time analyzing it. Despite all of Vena’s great features, DataRails has been shown to have a slightly shorter transition time, and can be a better choice specifically for small and medium size businesses.



While Excel is still standing the test of time and is king of spreadsheets and financial planning, it is clear that businesses need an upgrade to the time consuming labor it involves. There are a wide range of companies with different types of software and platforms that can help your company be more efficient and accurate.





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