BARC Study Shows: 'Excel-lent' Planning Not a Guarantee for Business Success

Software Provider arcplan Says the Significance of Planning Strategies is Growing

More than ever, business success and planning go hand in hand. However, businesses often do not have the tools needed for effective planning available to them, meaning that staff have to make do with the all-purpose weapon Excel. As a result, they often fail to exploit the full potential of the planning process, since spreadsheets do not provide all of the required planning functionality. These are some of the results of the independent market study "The Planning Survey 14" conducted by the Business Application Research Center (BARC) and the Internationale Controller Verein e.V. - prepared with the support and sponsorship of international business intelligence and planning software provider arcplan.

The Planning Survey 14, the most extensive market study on the business intelligence sector in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), addresses key questions relating to the complexities of planning and budgeting as management and controlling instruments for businesses. The study examined the value that businesses generally attributed to planning and how satisfied they were with the software products they used.

A Love-Hate Relationship with the "Planning Tool" Excel

Excel is used in just about every business. This traditional office suite application is also employed as a planning tool by 86 percent of the users surveyed - sometimes exclusively so, and sometimes in combination with other software. Particularly striking is the high proportion of dissatisfied users: according to the survey, 83 percent of those who solely use Excel experience problems in the planning process. The lack of flexibility compared to dedicated planning tools was a frequent criticism. 41 percent of Excel users miss planning functionality such as simulation. Among users of specialized planning tools, the number of unhappy users is only 15 percent, a much lower value.

31 percent of those surveyed reported that Excel provided them with data of insufficient quality, while 45 percent spoke of an immense amount of work involved in planning. In the case of dedicated planning software, this was reported by just 15 percent of planning experts.

The authors of the study concluded that the use of dedicated planning tools - like arcplan Edge - pays off in light of the problems faced when using Excel. Users who only used specialized planning tools reported superior integration of business planning and much less work involved in the planning process. The users said they were happier and fewer experienced problems in general.

Suitable Planning Tool Saves Time

The amount of time spent in the planning process is also a key factor that impacts business success significantly. As a result, the right choice of a planning tool has a critical effect, summarized BARC. The study clearly shows that the planning process takes much longer when businesses only use Excel. Wherever businesses deploy dedicated planning tools, the time spent on all automated data input and processing tasks is only half that of those that solely use Excel. This is of immense importance, particularly for businesses that continuously revise their planning throughout the year, for example in a rolling planning process.

The Benefits of Integrated Planning Solutions

In many DACH businesses, the traditional method of annual budget planning continues to dominate. An integrated short, medium and long-term business planning solution is seen by an increasing number of businesses to be beneficial, but currently the implementation leaves something to be desired at all levels. Deficits are apparent in particular in the combination of operational and strategic planning.

"This recent study highlights how businesses are in need of an innovative and flexible tool for a wide variety of data sources," said Achim Röhe, VP of Professional Services at arcplan, summarizing the results. "On the other hand, inconsistent, poorly integrated tool landscapes can only ensure that staff is dissatisfied, time management becomes uncontrollable, and key planning tasks are poorly performed or even not performed at all. Therefore, to ensure business success, users should rely in the long term on a smart tool that enables appropriate reactions to market dynamics and growing demands."

The BARC market researchers queried over 400 users from Germany, Austria and Switzerland for the study. The authors placed a particular focus on having a broad spread of industries. The manufacturing and processing industry (32 percent), the IT sector (15 percent) and the service sector (12 percent) were particularly strongly represented.

Learn more about budgeting, planning and forecasting with arcplan here: