June 19, 2018

Accountants Should Dump Microsoft Excel for Database Software

Rumor has it that the AICPA is finally integrating Microsoft Excel into the CPA exam starting in 2018. I’ll admit my initial reaction is “it’s about time” since the generic spreadsheet I used was archaic. Apparently, almost 70% of the CPAs surveyed by the AICPA agreed. Go figure — we are all Excel-aholics who can’t get through the day without busting out a spreadsheet.

Rumor has it that the AICPA is finally integrating Microsoft Excel into the CPA exam starting in 2018. I’ll admit my initial reaction is “it’s about time” since the generic spreadsheet I used was archaic. Apparently, almost 70% of the CPAs surveyed by the AICPA agreed. Go figure — we are all Excel-aholics who can’t get through the day without busting out a spreadsheet. 

But, I have to wonder… is our love affair with Excel getting out of hand? It’s really not that great, after all. I know Excel has been declared the winner in the spreadsheet market and stood the test of time. Obviously, it is one of the most versatile applications for accounting and is the third pea in the pod along with Word and PowerPoint. As a part of the Microsoft office suite there no need to shell out any extra mula to start using it. That’s a plus. But, the same can be said for a number of other apps…

I’m here to make a case that it may be time to ditch Excel and indulge in another, more seductive option: database software. If you’re a Windows aficionado it’s most likely Microsoft Access (again, most people already have it because it is part of the Office Suite) or die-hard Apple fans go for FileMaker.

Unruly size

First off, spreadsheets have the tendency to grow larger than your screen. It’s literally a pain in the neck. No wonder people invest in ostentatious 21:9 monitors. The max spreadsheet size is 1,048,576 rows by 16,384 columns! If your spreadsheet is this big… good luck. It is too big for it’s own good. Shame on you for thinking that was a good idea. Or maybe you inherited that out-of-control monstrosity, in which case, I feel sorry for you.

When is the last time a database had this problem? Um, never.

Unresponsive files

As a result of an inexcusably ballooning spreadsheet, don’t tell me you haven’t experienced a slow and unresponsive file when trying to do something easy, like a find and replace. It’s infuriating. Spreadsheets like that are memory sucking behemoths!

The good news is that database software does this all much better. Duplicate data is excluded (thanks, normalization) so it doesn’t need to sift through as much.

Sneaky formula coding errors

You also can’t tell me that Excel hasn’t burned you before…those sneaky formulas that are shielded from view can make or break you. One error and you are out of luck. It’s not college and you don’t get partial credit because of a “flow-through” error. Take a look at these Harvard guys who had an Excel coding error that is to blame for their entire theory falling apart and causing them to look like total schmucks.

Databases can store queries and scripts that are, at least in my opinion, easier to double check and fix. Even this smart PhD candidate agrees with me because “mapping all the formulas to their corresponding results is incredibly difficult [in Excel]. Without any “central” structure interpreting such things or catching any mistakes becomes very difficult.”

With three points (even if Excel does manage to get a point for versatility), I declare database software our winner! It’s time to give Access or FileMaker a try.

Let’s hear it. Are you on #TeamExcel? Do you think a flat file is the bee’s knees and I am just whining because “Either you work Excel, or it works you?” Or, do you think Excel is ruining the world one cell at a time?

Image: iStock/Johnny Kurtz Photography

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KPMG Arrives at the Paperless Audit Party

office-space-402a-061907.jpgWe’ve received several reports about Klynveldians attending “eAudit” training this summer which marks the firm’s attempt to get break into the “paperless” audit world. Reports have been mixed with some saying that it’s best technology KPMG has invested in but others claiming that it will only run on Vista which may be problematic when Windows 7 rolls out.
Forgetting the technology mumbo-jumbo, it’s been long rumored that KPMG was the last major firm to make the move to a paperless audit. This could have been due to a number of things:
More, after the jump

• Partners that have been around since WWII that can’t even use email put the kibosh on the whole idea
• M-O-N-E-Y
• Accountants, in general, resist the idea of trying a new restaurant so don’t even think about messing with their audit methods
What’s more surprising is that some Radio Station clients have said that they prefer the old school audit. Not exactly sure what is so appealing about young auditors schleping around boxes of binders that weigh a few metric asstons but whatevs.
Our point, dude, is that KPMG has finally caved on this whole “paperless” idea. Since audits aren’t truly paperless we’re not sure what all the fuss is about but KPMGers got an extra week in Florida in the dead of summer out of it. Discuss the firm breaking into the new century in the comments or let us know how terrible your lives will be because of it.

(UPDATE) Big 4 Technology: Open Thread

Thumbnail image for Apple-II.jpgEditor’s Note: Francine McKenna is a regular contributor to Going Concern
We recently received a tip about KPMG implementing a new risk management system for vetting potential clients and engagements. The new system was put in place around the time of the second round of layoffs and according to our tip, things did not go smoothly.
Simply put, it didn’t work. Since the whole risk management thing is a big deal for any accounting firm, people were working day and night to try and get it fixed. Did we mention the layoffs? Right. They occurred right when this whole SNAFU was occurring.
Our source described the risk management process as a “total nightmare” for basically two weeks. Good news, is that things seem to be back to normal but it sounds like it was pre-tay, pre-tay hairy for a while there.
Most accounting firms, especially the Big 4, are heavily dependent on the efficient functioning of their technology. But, aside from reading this fine publication, you probably spend a good chunk of your time dealing with tech related headaches.
Firms trying to go paperless, firms still using Lotus Notes, and we’ve heard that KPMG is currently upgrading its basic operating system to run on…Windows Vista.
On the positive side, Deloitte is issuing iPhones and that’s basically all we got…
We asked our contributor, Francine McKenna for her thoughts on the Big 4’s investment in technology:

The Big 4 operate under the “shoemaker’s children” doctrine when it comes to their own technology infrastructure. Every once and a while you’ll see a big splashy investment but partners loathe spending their potential payout on common goods, and investments for the future: “If I don’t understand it or perceive a need for it, I don’t want to spend any of my money on it.” Very few of the rank and file partners understand or appreciate the firm’s technology infrastructure needs.

Discuss your firm’s technology (or lack thereof). The good, the bad, the stuff that makes you want to drop kick your laptop out the window.