Forecasting on Excel? 2020 Alternatives and Supplements



Excel is the ultimate tool for financial analysis- you can do so much on the platform given its adaptable and dynamic nature. It’s an integral part of the finance function, so much so that many organizations run their entire budgeting, forecasting, and planning functions on it. Oftentimes, even numbers that are managed outside of the platform are exported into the software and manipulated on it.


Forecasting is a method that attempts to project into the future based on past data. It is used to anticipate future changes, adjust conclusions, or guide decisions. This is often done on Excel. Finance relies on Excel extensively, but it is not a perfect tool. One Forbes contributor went so far as to say that it may be “the most dangerous software on the planet,” given that “it's all become so complex and it's handled in such a slapdash manner that no one is really on top of it anymore.”


Thankfully, today there are platforms that allow end-users to improve Excel-based procedures. These next-generation tools bring structure to your processes.

1. Smartsheet

A cloud-based platform, Smartsheet is used to collaborate on project timelines, documents, calendars, and other tasks. According to IDG, it is "part office productivity, part project management, part document sharing... [it] is trying to be the central hub for how people work."

Forbes has described the platform as having "a relatively simple" user interface that centers on "smartsheets," which are similar to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Each smartsheet can have its rows expanded or collapsed to see individual tasks or large-scale project progress respectively. Tasks can be sorted by deadline, priority or the person assigned to them.


What's next for Smartsheet?

Over the next several years, we plan to build substantive, industry-specific solutions that can deliver ROI rapidly. It’s beyond users viewing Smartsheet as a team-based enablement tool and extends to evolving our product to solve high-value business problems without breaking the compelling, easy-to-use, self-directed attributes of the offering along the way. -Mark Mader, CEO, Smartsheet

2. DataRails

An innovative CPM solution, DataRails allows employees to keep working with Excel as they’re used to, while the organization benefits from an enterprise-class platform that enhances Excel into a database-centric organizational solution.

DataRails is based on a first-of-its-kind algorithm capable of extracting and analyzing complex and unstructured data (including formulas) found in Excel files, and converts said data into structured information that is stored in a cloud-based database. With automated databasing, employees benefit from comprehensive and error-free numbers. Access to up-to-date operating expenses means they can strategically plan and allocate future expenditures.


3. Adaptive Insights

Adaptive Insights is a planning, consolidation, analytics and reporting tool. The solution is relevant for various organizational functions including sales, finance, and workforce planning. It is flexible and allows for the modelling of virtually any kind of functional use.

What's next for Adaptive Insights?

"We are continuing to build out our operational planning, whether it be sales planning or marketing analytics planning. All aspects where a company is trying to understand the variables of their business. We've just updated our analytics platform to make it easier for clients to look at their performance information." -Tom Bogan, CEO, Adaptive Insights

4. Lokad

Lokad is an end-to-end solution that accounts for every demand pattern and every constraint that applies to your supply chain. Lokad has developed a forecasting technology that is uniquely suitable for supply chain optimization. They deliver probabilistic forecasts, which are about the only statistical method that works when dealing with erratic or intermittent demand.

5. Excel add-ins

Finally, there exist plenty of Excel add-ins that you can take advantage of. For example there’s Modano, a modular content management and sharing platform for Excel. Modano allows pieces of spreadsheets to be reused, shared, and linked to save time and reduce risk, with its main application being financial modelling.


Whether you’re looking to improve Excel-based processes or are considering jumping to a different software, with all the incredible solutions available 2020 is definitely the year to do so.

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