A guide to using Excel as financial accounting software

Last updated:June 2015

Editor's note

For the finance and accounting departments, Microsoft Excel is a blank canvas on which they paint financial data to tell stories of business health, plan smart budgets and forecast financial trends. Sure, Excel is not as flashy or automated as the new cloud-based financial tools, and human entry error is always a risk. The enormous task of migrating users to another system can also stand in the way. For now, though, the longstanding tool inspires some serious loyalty.

Indeed, 63% of U.S. companies still use the software for budgeting and long-range planning, according to the 2016 edition of the "Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function" by Robert Half.

So the question is: What should you know about Excel for accounting and finance? This guide gives you critical information to answer that question.

Section 1 tackles must-know Excel tips and tricks such as setting a password to open or modify a workbook. Section 2 shares how to make the most of Excel functionality such as determining when Excel is right for business intelligence. Section 3 explores the idea of whether it's time to leave Excel behind. Lastly, a glossary of key terms associated with financial accounting software is included. To wrap things up, see how much you've learned by taking a brief quiz.


1Managing financial data in Excel -- and beyond

When companies move away from Excel, they often seek tools that will save time by allowing for more automation and better data integrity. But in many cases, Excel continues to hold much of the company's financial data. Users need to make the most of Excel functionality while recognizing where it falls short.

Read on for advice on managing data with Excel, avoiding its pitfalls and, when necessary, making the move to specialized software.

2Excel's changing role in the enterprise

Despite its long history in the enterprise, using Excel alone for financial accounting is no longer a good idea. Is it time for companies to completely rid themselves of their Excel habits and move to new financial accounting software? Or are some companies still finding a place for their spreadsheets in their financial processes?

These case studies explore the question of whether to leave Excel behind.

3Prove your Excel know-how

Thinking of using Excel for accounting purposes? You better know a few basic commands to get started.