In our previous blog our Managing Director, Denver McCann discussed WHY Vena + Excel is a platform for success. In his piece we explore the challenges facing the 1bn+ community of Excel users, why it’s wrong to replace Excel with new technologies as a solution to tackling the perceived inadequacies of Excel. He goes on to explain why the Vena technology platform presents a better alternative, embracing your spreadsheet-heavy business processes instead of replacing them.
Today, we’re looking at HOW Vena succeeds where others fail. And the short answer, is that it combines the best of both worlds: Microsoft Excel plus a cloud technology, with a scalable and dynamic cloud database, governance and controls, process builder, workflow tools and amazing automation capabilities behind it.
Even though I’ve used Excel my entire working career, the promise of Vena being the future of Excel-centric finance and operational business processes excited me in a typically finance man-child-meets-Excel-geek kind of way.
How exactly does Vena work?
The team at Vena have created a browser-based platform which effectively wraps around your Excel workbooks and processes. Let’s break down the major elements:
Centralised workbook control
Picture a future state, where your team creates templates, models and reports, all linked to a single version of your corporate truth. For each task or process step, a single, centrally managed workbook can be used seamlessly by team members throughout your organisation. And everyone always has the most up-to-date master version.
Process and task management
Through integrated dashboards, the process owner can keep their finger on the pulse of their team’s progress against the current process cycle and tasks, using an interactive, live status tracker. Below you can see how the 2021 Annual Budget is progressing.
You’re empowered to build and define the process itself via a simple process management framework, based on the concept of a start and end point with tasks, automations and controls. Below is what our current 2021 budget process looks like. Each step has owners, support workers (team members who help to get the job done), report viewers and clear documentation.
‘Familiar’ container for your Excel
We now have the broad outline of how a business process can be set up and managed, but what does the user interface look like? Below is what it looks like for the real heroes –the team doing the work – with a typically “cloud” look and feel, focused on user priorities and tasks.
In the left hand pane you can see the tasks and forms are split by what’s on the to-do list, what’s coming soon in the process flow you’re responsible for, and the items you can view or need to review. On the right-hand pane, it shows further details about the selected task, including who’s involved in the process and what forms are available.
The icon for the form is the Excel file icon. That’s because Vena’s concept of a ‘form’ is actually a fully functional Excel file with all the wonderful tools, formulas, charts, structure and familiarity of Excel. And since the basis of data entry, modelling and more sophisticated forecasting logic is all contained within Excel, everything is intuitive when compared to learning new ‘replacement’ technologies.
Data governance and audit trail
Many people dismiss Excel saying that it’s too FREE, too open and un-controlled. But with Vena those days are over.
One of its best features is the auditability of the files all the way down to an individual cell level. This functionality tells us who made a change, what was changed and when it was changed. This alone saved several days’ work on a recent project, when tracking down the source of an un-expected issue.
So, how can Numeritas + Vena help your business?
As a niche financial modelling firm, we’ve been creating Excel-based models for almost two decades, all of which follow commonly accepted best practices. We even played a major role in developing the Financial Modelling Code.
But while they may be elegant and powerful, these models have always been held back and made quite expensive by needing to embed and custom develop a lot of the elements that are native to the Vena technology platform.
Using Vena frees up resource and budget so we can focus on the more important task of embedding business rules and identifying drivers which make the most material impact on your forecasts, rather than a half-baked work-around.
This means we can now rapidly create and deploy long-term solutions that evolve with your organisation, removing the need to build data and user management elements, and bringing scalability and control not possible with traditional Excel.