"Digital disruption has introduced more data sources, more channels, more numerous and complex business models, a more global nature of business, and more reliance on external partners. This is a real challenge for all business leaders but particularly so from the perspective of fiscal management and financial operations"

Malcolm Fox, Vice President of Product Marketing Financial Management and Services Industry Solutions at Epicor Software, shared these words as part of the release of a research report, released earlier this year, based on a global survey of over 1 500 financial decision makers.

The Epicor research resulted in the following amazing findings among others:

  • despite the wide availability of business systems and applications, 60% of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) said that they still rely on Excel spreadsheets to gain access to data,
  • 32% surveyed say that the financial IT system they currently use needs updating and,
  • 27% believe that new or more advanced financial systems investment will deliver the greatest positive impact on their finance and accounting functions over the next 2 to 3 years.

60% of CFOs to be still relying on Microsoft Excel shouldn’t be startling considering how popular Microsoft Office still is with big corporations that insist on standardization and ubiquity. Given previous adoption trends, the statistic should be much higher for Africa.[1]

Many software houses that try to replace widespread decades-old solutions such as Excel, sell their solutions around the theme of digital disruption. Fortunately, it seems that CFOs see beyond the smoke and mirrors.

“digital disruption happens to and through digital things, which then accelerate the disruption of physical things.”

James McQuivey, Author, 'Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation'

From the perspective of the CFO or Finance Team, digital disruption affects the business model, products, services and user experiences. Digital disruption is a serious threat to CFOs who can either take it negatively or use it to create shareholder value. Sales people use this threat to convince CFOs to replace existing solutions and dress proposed solutions as digital disruption tools.

By definition, tools that aid digital disruption should be free or cost close to nothing. In most cases, proposed replacement solutions are expensive if studied holistically. Some come at a justifiable price and do eventually add great value. A good CFO will study closely what digital disruption elements are being offered beyond the existing solution.

With the aim to understand the above statistics, we picked up some common selling points used by software houses and explored whether they really propose better enabling tools for digital disruption than Excel.

Lack Of Integration With Other Business Applications

With the right technical support, you can integrate Excel with many applications. It’s a wide discussion to explore on a case-by-case basis.

Today’s Excel integrates with many popular business intelligence tools, like Microsoft Power BI or SAP Business Objects BI, and this integration makes it possible to uncover deeper insights.

It's unclear why software houses continue to use this argument to sell themselves. Some integration requirements are also exaggerated and CFOs need to be careful in evaluating whether what they’re being sold tools that contribute to positive digital disruption.

Attractive Dashboards and Reports

There’s the decade-old argument that the ability to create great dashboards and reports from Excel spreadsheets is limited. With so many add-ins freely available on the internet, we still found this argument on a number of websites.

Today’s Excel can take millions of rows of data and convert it into touch-enabled, interactive visual data that can be embedded into PowerPoint. There are also more powerful business intelligence add-ons like Power Pivot (which is free to download from Microsoft).


This is not only a challenge is software sales. 'Cloud' is on top with 'disruption' on the list of abused words in Tech sales. Very few can demonstrate how their individual solutions are better equipped to accelerate digital disruption over others using 'Cloud'.

Aston Martin using Microsoft Cloud to supercharge their cross-platform infrastructure.

Steep Learning Curve and Migration Cost

This one is not a common selling point. While it's a weak argument to counter Migration, most proposed replacement solutions miss the need to guarantee a phased out approach for ditching Excel. The Migration sold should ideally consider all contributors of data; all the way from the low-level Data Capturers to the Executive Team.

The mistake we still make is to sell solutions in departmental silos. The learning curve and integration with individual contributors is rarely considered. I would make this one of the core selling points, since CFOs need to be certain of this total cost of migration versus future benefits (if any).

Whether abuse or misuse, the selling points above don’t necessarily guarantee a system forklift that translates to digital disruption. There are many other factors to consider and CFOs have become vigilant with their “moving with the times” investments.

Cover Image - The European Union Naval Force Somalia Operation Atalanta

This post is sponsored by e-magination InfoSolutions. e-magination InfoSolutions is an information management and consulting firm specialising in Business Intelligence and Information Management.

  1. The survey only covered the following countries: Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, Singapore, Sweden, the UK, US, and Canada. ↩︎

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