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  • James Richard

Best FP&A Software Solutions for Excel Users

FP&A software solutions come in many shapes and sizes. There are simple Excel plug-ins, complex and expensive software for large enterprises, and everything in between. Some companies upgrade their FP&A because they want to focus on improving their budgeting or forecasting, while others are tired of all of the manual work involved in collecting the data every month. However, there are very few FP&A solutions that put an emphasis on being spreadsheet native, specifically Excel native.




Why is Excel Native FP&A Software So Important?



1) Familiarity

A big reason why so many organizations are not switching to FP&A software, (even though 75% of CFOs identify the need for a better FP&A function), is because they are afraid of how complex it will be to learn a whole new system.


On the other hand, there is no such thing as a finance expert without some Excel experience, so using an Excel native FP&A software tool will create a sense of familiarity that will make it much easier for the finance team to get used to.


2) Quicker implementation = Quicker results

Another reason why an organization might choose a software that is spreadsheet native is because it will take much less time to learn and implement. This not only helps the finance department, but it will also help convince upper management and stakeholders that FP&A software is a good investment because they will see results much faster. With non-spreadsheet native tools which could take months before the company sees benefit from it.


Top 3 Native Excel FP&A Software Solutions


1) Datarails


Datarails is the only completely native Excel solution and therefore ranks as number 1 for Excel users. Datarails’ interface allows companies to stay in their own Excel environment, meaning the integration is smooth and easy for anyone who knows how to use Excel.


Thanks to its unique native Excel interface, Datarails is an easy-to-use software with a short implementation time. They also provide over 70 integrations according to their website, advanced drill down capabilities, and customizable dashboards that each organization can design how they want.


Image from Datarails Integrations page: https://www.datarails.com/integrations/

Overall, Datarails is an excellent FP&A solution for any business, but the native Excel interface puts them in sole first place as the best FP&A solution for Excel users.


One reviewer reported on G2 that using Datarails “Doesn't feel like using a system. Using Excel has made the change management seamless.”


Datarails even has a simple product explanation video about finance experts' love for Excel, and how Datarails caters to it.



Datarails Pricing:

  • Customizable quotes starting at $2,000 a month.

  • Monthly payment plans (no commitment and opt out anytime).

  • No implementation fees or consulting fees.


Datarails Functions:

  • Full, granular drill down capabilities.

  • Complete flexibility as Datarails supports unlimited data dimensions and allows you to keep any existing models or choose pre-defined ones.

  • Powerful workflows allow for better collaboration and audit control along with automatic source data updates.


Cons:

  • While Datarails is the top solution for Excel users, they currently don't have full compatibility with Google Sheets and Mac.

  • Focus on SMBs. Large organizations are better off with enterprise level FP&A solutions.

  • Most of their customer base is in the US, UK, and Canada.


2) Vena Solutions


Vena consistently ranks as one of the top FP&A solutions in most categories, and Excel is no different. Vena is also a great FP&A solution for Excel users, however their system is slightly more rigid than Datarails – both with their data models and pricing – which is why it is ranked second for Excel users.


One of the biggest differences between Vena and other FP&A solutions is that Vena has pre-built models. While this can be good for some finance teams, many want to use their own models, or at least have the option of being flexible with it in the future, in case their company scales or their FP&A functions change.


Image from Vena homepage: https://www.venasolutions.com/

However, Vena is still an excellent solution for Excel users. Vena has audit control functions which allows you to control data access and drill down into the history of a spreadsheet. That way you know who has been in your templates and where your numbers are coming from, which is a big upgrade from the traditional Excel model from the finance team that involves multiple versions and multiple users.


One reviewer reported about Vena on G2: “I review P&L for 6 different sites each month and Vena makes it easy to switch in between the P&L's for all of those sites in one place. Before we migrated to Vena, I had to manage about 10 different Excel files for all of the different business units in the 6 sites that I manage. Vena eliminated all of that.”


Vena has been around for more than a decade and is trusted by organizations of all sizes. They rank as a great all around FP&A solution and the second best FP&A solution for Excel users.


Vena Pricing:

  • Customizable quotes starting at $30,000 per year.

  • Implementation fee (usually starting at $10,000).

Vena Features:

  • Centralized data and version control.

  • Locks and secures your templates so your users can keep their numbers where they belong.

  • Creates actionable insights and turns your compartmentalized departments into collaborative business planning partners.

Cons:

  • Depending which plan companies chose, support can be limited or an additional fee.

  • Implementation time can take longer than others due to having to learn their pre built models.

  • The run/load time on large complex workbooks takes time.

  • Changing models can require 3rd party help or a dedicated FP&A specialist who knows Power BI.


3) Onplan


OnPlan is a unique financial forecasting platform and deserves a place on the top FP&A software for spreadsheet users for a couple of reasons:

1) OnPlan is one of the rare FP&A software that is Google Sheets native (with a good Excel integration as well).

2) OnPlan is an ideal solution for companies experiencing spreadsheet pain, but not yet ready to adopt the complicated workflows or higher prices for heavier forecasting tools.


Like other FP&A tools, OnPlan provides budgeting and forecasting automation and gives finance professionals more control over the data with permission based access and user control. Users can also build models in Google Sheets and sync them with a single click, which takes away much of the common syncing problems that occurs with spreadsheets.


Image from OnPlan homepage: https://onplan.co/

One reviewer said that “Having instant access to a variety of ‘What-if’ scenarios has enabled us to make data-driven, strategic financial decisions that impact our course of action over multiple planning periods while remaining flexible to adjust and make tactical decisions with a more immediate impact.”


To sum it up, OnPlan covers a specific market niche, and users who fit that model generally find it to be a good tool. It’s meant for smaller companies who use a lot of spreadsheets that need an upgrade and have a smaller or less advanced finance function.


That being said, OnPlan does have its limitations, namely that a growing company can run out of the benefits that OnPlan provides rather quickly. It has limited integrations and additional fees for more use cases, therefore when companies outgrow the small business stage, the more established FP&A software solutions such as Datarails and Vena provide better value for money.


OnPlan Pricing:

  • OnPlan starts at $12,500 per year for “Essentials Plan” (only 2 core integrations- Quickbooks and Salesforce) with custom quotes for more advanced plans and integrations.

OnPlan Functions:

  • Custom dashboards by team or person that change automatically when your model does.

  • Budget vs. actuals analysis for early fraud detection and reduction of errors.

  • Ability to link your board deck in OnPlan to Google Slides for easy updating.

Cons:

  • When users outgrow it, they need to switch to a more comprehensive FP&A solution which takes time and money.

  • Limited Power BI and AI insights.

  • Limited integrations and doesn’t support all of the popular software such as Sage Intaact.

Conclusion


While there are many options for all types of FP&A software, the amount of FP&A solutions that are spreadsheet native are actually quite limited. Datarails is best for finance experts who rely heavily on Excel. Vena Solutions is best for Excel users in bigger organizations that don’t need too much flexibility with their data models. And OnPlan is best suited for small companies who use mostly Google Sheets.


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