When Dante wrote about the “nine circles of Hell,” he surely had Excel in mind—right? It’s not that Excel isn’t a great spreadsheet program. But if you’re trying to do complex and collaborative planning and budgeting, it’s probably like trying to use a bicycle to change a light bulb (read: not great). While it’s certainly possible to do financial planning in Excel, it’s just not the right tool for the job. If you’re caught up in the infernal machine of Excel being stretched to meet complex business needs, then you’ll understand the “Nine Circles of Excel Hell.”

1. Oops

Excel is fragile. In a shared ecosystem of spreadsheets, it’s all too easy for people to inadvertently delete rows and cells and break formulas and links. Excel just isn’t made for sharing, and accidental deletions are behind some of the worst Excel-related disasters.

2. Crush

Excel is a huge pain to consolidate. How many finance professionals relish the prospect of spending weeks consolidating 50+ departmental plans into a single master plan? And as for trying to produce a rolling forecast with anything like the frequency the business needs, well…

3. Brain Drain

Your team didn’t spend years earning accountancy degrees and MBAs and honing strategic analytical skills to spend their waking hours collecting and consolidating spreadsheets. Imagine if all that time could be spent on strategy, instead?

4. Finger in the Air

Excel is no good for real-time data as it only provides a historical snapshot of the numbers at a single point in time. This means you’re always chasing after updated information to know the current position against the plan, budget, or forecast.

5. Import Duties

It’s hard to get data into Excel (the way you want it, anyway). If you spend hours laboriously exporting operational data from your GL, payroll, purchasing, or other systems and manually configuring it in Excel, you know there has to be a better way.

6. Group Grope

Excel is many things, but it’s not a management information system. It may be serviceable for analytics, as long as they’re just for you. But if you want senior executives and departmental managers to have management dashboards and run their own reports (like comparing actual performance vs forecast performance, or to run a “what if” analysis), Excel is not your friend.

7. Flatland

Excel is two-dimensional. If you want to model something like profitability by product line, then Excel is great. But if you want everyone to be able to model something like the impact of a 5% pay raise to a single department—and understand how it will impact every department as well as the P&L, cash flow, and balance sheet—you’re in for a world of hurt. The more dimensions your data has, the less you want to wrestle with it in Excel.

8. Whodunit

When you have a lot of people updating an Excel spreadsheet, it becomes impossible to tell where changes have been made, who made them, and when. The audit trail goes cold fast—and that’s not good for governance, efficiency, or tracking down the source of errors and inaccuracies.

9. Global Challenge

Excel is frustrating enough when you’re only dealing in one currency and one fiscal regime. If you have to take into account multiple currencies, exchange rate fluctuations, or the vagaries of national and international taxation, your consolidation, forecasting, budgeting, and reporting activities enter a whole new dimension of complexity—one for which Excel is eminently unsuited.

Financial Planning in Excel — Escape from “Hell” to the Cloud

With CPM in the cloud, you can escape the nine circles of “Excel Hell” and make your next planning cycle fast, accurate, and utterly pain-free. Plus, it also delivers positive, long-lasting benefits for your business, too.

Better Decisions

When your whole team can track performance in real-time, forecast as often as needed, and crank out precise “what-if” analyses, the business is in a much better position to hit its targets and slam-dunk the competition.

Better Management

With less time spent on manual consolidation, troubleshooting, reporting, and data loading, finance staff can concentrate on analyzing performance data, re-forecasting frequently, and making the right decisions to take the business forward.

Tighter Control

Spreadsheets roaming free in the wild invite cowboy behavior. Locking best practices into your cloud CPM system keeps everybody doing the right things: conforming to policy, entering data consistently, and using the same built-in processes for consolidation, currency conversion, modeling, forecasting, and planning.


It’s easy to see why financial planning in Excel might not be your best bet. With thousands of businesses already moving their planning, budgeting and forecasting capabilities to the cloud, there’s every reason to investigate what it can do for your organization.


“I genuinely don’t know how we managed before we used Adaptive Planning. I am happy to tell anyone still using Excel spreadsheets about this solution that will save them time and make the planning process much more focused.”
– Simon Nichol, Finance Director, The Greenfield Group