UK developer criticises ‘mother’ of spreadsheets

UK developer Analyst Financials has launched an attack on a sacred cow of accountancy software – Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet.

‘Most accountants speak MS Excel as their second language,’ said Analyst Financials managing director Mike Evans. But ‘Excel addiction’ was a counter-productive side-effect of inadequate financial reporting tools, he explained.

‘Getting a #100+ an hour accountant to spend a few hours on basic data entry makes very little financial sense to me,’ added Evans.

Of course, Analyst Financials has the answer to the problem: a suite of three add-ons that extract data from accounts systems and format the figures, management reports, budgets and cost-centre allocations.

‘Most companies produce management reports in Excel after closing the ledger. We automate the whole process. Our software generates an Excel spreadsheet by attaching to the ledger, so it reflects any changes,’ said Evans.

‘We’re the only one that can pick up the underlying financial structures, not just the data,’ he added.

Analyst Financials, which rebranded itself earlier this year following a management buy-out from US parent company Timeline, is one of the UK’s quiet success stories in business software.

Microsoft has licensed a portion of the Analyst Financials code as part of the Windows NT Small Business Server suite and Sage has sought the company’s help on the US-developed State of the Art product range that Sage acquired earlier this year.

And accounts systems from Scala, Dataflow and Infinium all boast Analyst-developed reporting tools, added Evans.

Although there is an element of biting the hand that feeds it in the company’s attack on Excel, Analyst Financials is anticipating the arrival of Microsoft’s SQL Server version 7 with some enthusiasm.

SQL Server 7 will include the ‘Plato’ engine for on-line analytical processing, which opens new possibilities for third-party suppliers like Analyst.

‘One of the problems of OLAP is building the database,’ said channel director John Walder. ‘In much the same way we identified the problem with Excel, we’ve identified the issue with Plato.’

In response, the company is preparing a new Analyst OLAP product to launch when SQL Server becomes commercially available.

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